Transcript of Get Ready Report podcast Episode 7:
“Get Ready campaign expands to all-hazards focus“

Interview with Georges Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E), executive director of APHA, by Jessica Murray.

Intro: This is the American Public Health Association’s Get Ready Report, coming to you from Washington, D.C. Today’s episode is an interview with Dr. Georges Benjamin about the expansion of the Get Ready campaign from flu to all hazards. Get Ready is a preparedness initiative in which APHA is heavily involved, and Benjamin is here to help us understand its beginnings, where it is headed and why.

Murray: So, who is the Get Ready campaign aimed at and why?

Benjamin: Well, thank you very much. You know, when we set up to start the Get Ready campaign what we were trying to do was get the public, public health practitioners and people who are concerned about preparedness to be engaged in getting people ready for public health emergencies. We started with this effort by focusing on pandemic flu and emerging infection diseases. But now we recognize that it’s time to broaden that effort.

Murray: Why did APHA decide to start the Get Ready campaign?

Benjamin: You know, when we first stared the Get Ready campaign, we became quite aware that the average citizen: my mom, your dad, our cousins, our neighbors, did not really have any concept of preparedness. People certainly got ready right after 9-11 and the terrible tragedies that occurred around that, but every day we have emergencies from minor emergencies that occur in the home to major things like hurricanes and tornadoes. And so we thought this would be a great way for us to help people understand what public health is and how public health can help people get ready to protect themselves from disease.

Murray: And in the first question you did mention APHA broadening the Get Ready focus, can you go a little bit deeper into it?

Benjamin: Well, we started with pandemic flu and emerging infectious diseases specifically because there was a great deal of concern about pandemic flu, the H5N1 virus. But I remind people that over the last 10 years we’ve had monkeypox and we’ve have West Nile virus. We’ve had seasonal flu every year, some years worse than others. We’ve had a range of other new diseases, like SARS and concerns about Ebola and multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis. So that this effort was very much focused, while we were focused on flu, was very much also focused on these new diseases that we saw. But if one thinks about it, a lot of the things that you have to do to get prepared for a large infectious disease outbreak, are also maybe the things that you have to do to prepare for other emergencies. And so this is a natural next step, a logical next step, for our effort.

Murray: And, why does APHA need to expand this scope to all hazards if other organizations already focus on it? Of course the American Red Cross focuses on things like that. What makes the APHA different in its initiative?

Benjamin: Well, the American Public Health Association focuses on the broadest areas of public health and so we bring some additional things to the table that some of the other associations don’t. Many people, for example, don’t know that the Red Cross doesn’t do health. The Red Cross really provides shelter, food, housing and support for individuals in disaster and then you have to bring in the health piece. The Department of Health and Human Services, through the Public Health Service, brings that health focus and, but that’s the governmental focus. We found out (during Hurricane) Katrina how important it was for communities to have a focus in this area as well. And so we, as a community-based nonprofit, believe we bring a community-based focus to preparedness as well as the health element to it. And then we bring a very unique perspective, that of population health. We think about people from the tens, twenties, millions in terms of providing health services and public health services which, certainly, is something that people in disasters and emergencies tend to think about, but we do it through a very different lens. The other thing we do is that we’ve tried to focus our efforts on vulnerable populations very much so. And that’s a very unique focus that always gets taken care of, but always gets thought of at the end. So we’re trying to get that to be one of the first areas of focus for any preparedness effort.

Murray: And what does “all hazards” entail? I know you’ve mentioned Katrina. Do they entail any other types of disasters or…

Benjamin: Well, you know, pick a disaster: earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, infectious diseases. All of them have at their very core the need to be able to talk and communicate to folks, to be able to understand what the hazard is, to be able to help mitigate the hazard to your family members and yourself. To be able to, if you have to stay isolated for some time, requires that you pull together basically a first aid kit, food, water, and make sure you have appropriate shelter. And it just turns out that all of these various disasters have a core of things that are very similar. And so, when we talk about “all hazards” preparedness, we’re talking about identifying those things that are common to a broad range of disasters, and being prepared to have those things in place before the disaster occurs as kind of a basis for your preparedness efforts. And then you can do the specialized things that are for that are necessary for that emergency, and add those on later.

Murray:: Although the focus has been slightly shifted, will the Get Ready campaign continue to include pandemic flu and other emerging infectious diseases?

Benjamin: Yes, absolutely. We intend to continue to include infectious diseases, to include pandemic flu as part of this effort, so that remains our first effort. But this is the much broader effort now.

Murray: And, what other organizations are involved in the Get Ready campaign? Are they ready for this subject matter expansion as well?

Benjamin: We believe the other organizations are as well, though most prominent, of course, are the Affiliate (public health association) at the state level. They are affiliated with the APHA, they are all actively working to improve their infrastructure, and as part of that they are all looking at things that they can do to work on the Get Ready campaign. We also have state and local health departments who do get engaged in the Get Ready campaign. And many of them are building this campaign into their existing preparedness efforts. And the Red Cross. I actually sit on the Red Cross committee, and they are aware of the Get Ready campaign. And we have partnered at least once on a preparedness video around pandemic. So there are many organizations that are really involved in this. And I can tell you that, at least, under the last medical director for the Department of Homeland Security, our (Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks) campaign was (known) — he was made aware of those — and he thought that was a really neat idea. And we’re hoping that Homeland Security will eventually adopt that as one of their efforts as well.

Murray: How can APHA members become more involved in the Get Ready campaign?

Benjamin: Well, we’re certainly encouraging our members to host their own Get Ready Day, at their job or in their community. Get Ready day occurs in the fall. They can work through their Affiliate organization at the state level, or their state and local health department to both aid in their efforts and to encourage them, if they don’t have an effort, to get one started. One of the things that we call, that we think they can do, is called the “do, connect and share” initiative, where people can do something. So they can host or become involved in a Get Ready activity as I previously described. Or they can connect to state and local public health departments or the public health associations, again getting them involved in the Get Ready campaign. And, of course, share information with communities. One of the things that we’ve really tried to do is craft material that is at the literacy level of the average person. A lot of the times what we do in health, and public health as well, is we give people information that is much too complex, much too wordy. When clearer more accurate information, sometimes even with pictures, will get the point across because, clearly, in an emergency people don’t have time to read a lot of information. And when it’s talking about preparedness, sometimes that information can get pretty complex, so sharing people with accurate, easy-to-read material at the appropriate literacy level, we think, is very important. And then, of course, if you’re an educator getting involved in teaching about preparedness is something important as well.

Murray: I was thinking about another thing that you said earlier about (Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks). For those who aren’t aware about (Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks), can you talk a little bit about that?

Benjamin: Yes. Our (Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks) initiative is that we recognize that people need triggers. There’s been a lot of evidence that shows that, if you really want people to do something, then you attach what you want them to do to something that’s familiar. So every year, we know that we turn the clocks back and forward as we go to daylight savings time and as we return away from daylight savings time, both in the spring and the fall. So as part of that effort, we’ve encourage people, in the spring, when we turn the clocks back an hour, for us to remind people to check and make sure they have all the things they need for an all-hazard preparedness kit, which means things like flashlights and batteries, and even check their smoke detectors, and make sure they have enough medication for three days, and things like that, common sense things one will do. And then in the fall, when we return the clocks back to the normal, people should do it again. So this would involve people ensuring that their preparedness kits are ready at least twice a year.

Murray: This has been our presentation on expanding the scope of Get Ready. Thank you, Dr. Benjamin.

Thank you for turning in to today’s podcast episode, Expanding the Scope of Get Ready. Future podcasts will include interviews with health professionals on emergency preparedness. To learn more about APHA’s Get Ready campaign, visit www.getreadyforflu.org

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