Preparing for Preparedness

Over the last decade the nation has made a substantial investment in preparedness and response across all sectors. The 2009 National Health Security Strategy (NHSS) works to “refocus the patchwork of disparate public health and medical preparedness, response, and recovery strategies in order to ensure that the nation is prepared for, protected from, and resilient in the face of health threats or incidents with potentially negative health consequences.” In short, it provides a common vision for how the nation will achieve national health security.

According to Mike McHargue, Director of Public Health & Medical Planning and Response at the Bureau of Preparedness and Response in Florida, the future of preparedness comes in the form of two questions: How do we measure preparedness? and How prepared are we?

Photo Credit: Robert Pierce

“The answers have sometimes been difficult to quantify,” he admits, despite the fact that public health practitioners continue to demonstrate improvements in many areas. In efforts to support public health preparedness, public health professionals examine current capability and capability gaps and explore how we can best close existing gaps to achieve the desired level of capability.

“First, building strong public health systems in local communities is key!” McHargue emphasizes. Community preparedness is one of the goals (Goal 6 – Objective 6.3) of Florida’s Public Health and Healthcare Preparedness Strategic Plan (2012-2014). Building partnerships with state and local emergency management, state and local governmental non-emergency services agencies, community-based organizations, governmental and non-governmental entities serving vulnerable populations, and other NGOs can strengthen the structures and processes for collaboration between governmental and nongovernmental resources at all levels.

Florida’s Public Health and Healthcare Preparedness Strategic Plan aligns with the National Health Security Strategy (NHHS). Florida is also implementing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Public Health Preparedness Capabilities in their state and local planning. “The summary of these initiatives provides for the development and continuation of essential public heath services is communities throughout Florida,” says McHargue.

Click here to learn more about Florida’s Bureau of Preparedness and Response.

If any OMP participant has questions or other suggestions, post them in the comments sections under this post (online) or email the program coordinator


Interview: Mike McHargue

We reached out to Mike McHargue, Director of Public Health & Medical Planning and Response at the Bureau of Preparedness and Response, to get his thoughts on the future of the public health workforce and ways our FPHTC Online Mentor Program participants can prepare for a successful career in emergency management.

“Retaining our human resources is critical to sustaining public health preparedness and leadership,” says McHargue, who supports both formal and informal mentoring. He knows first-hand the challenges that come with sustaining a preparedness and response knowledge base, especially during times of budgets cuts and staff reductions. “Many of the public health pioneers that established current programs have moved on to new endeavors or retired and took critical knowledge and skills with them.”

McHargue is responsible for implementing Health and Medical preparedness capabilities during emergencies and coordinating the ESF8 (Health and Medical) support activities within the established emergency response systems with local, state, and federal partners. “At the State ESF 8 level, we provide planning, training, and exercise support to train and develop current and future practitioners and leaders for local County Health Departments and the Department of Health,” he says.

Mentees who are looking to gain employment in preparedness and response positions should have a range of capabilities – from public health knowledge and clinical skills to emergency management experience. Of course, formal training in Basic National Incident Management System (NIMS) for ICS 100, 200, 700, and 800 are required pre-requisites. McHargue believes that a combination of these skills among their total staff is vital to effective preparedness and response planning and implementation.

“We also seek out [professionals] who are flexible and can adapt to changing circumstances, are available to work altered work schedules, are available to deploy to the field, and demonstrate their ability to collaborate with diverse groups for planning and response activities,” he says.

A big thanks to Mike McHargue for his insights. Click here to learn more about Florida’s Bureau of Preparedness and Response.

If any OMP participant has questions or other suggestions, post them in the comments sections under this post (online) or email the program coordinator

Course: Role of Mentorship in Public Health

Mentorships are important in developing our future workforce. Sometimes formal mentorship programs are in place, where mentees are assigned to mentors. Other times co-workers or supervisors take students or employees under their wings and simply ‘show them the ropes.’

In public health, mentoring can be more crucial. It may be one way to attack some of public health’s most pressing issues, including (1) a dearth of leadership in the field, (2) personnel shortages in virtually every health specialization, (3) the needed unification of public health professionals with an eclectic array of skills and interests, and (4) better understanding and support of public health initiatives among the general public.

For those interested in deepening their current mentorship experience within the FPHTC Online Mentor Program, there are several online courses worth taking in an effort to build the skills needed to effectively coach professionals in public health.

South Central Public Health Partnership offers two online courses on mentoring in public health. They are “Coaching and Mentoring: Learn with and from Others” (3 contact hours) and “Mentoring and Coaching” (2 contact hours).

The Center for Leadership in Public Health Practice recently launched a new online course entitled “Role of Mentorship in Public Health.” In one short hour, participants will become able to:

  • Define key terminology, including formal and informal mentorships, mentor, and mentee.
  • List the benefits of a mentorship for the field of public health, the mentor, the mentee, and the public health organization.
  • Identify the key responsibilities of a mentor and a mentee.
  • Recognize the suggested activities included to support mentorships.
  • Identify strategies to initiate, sustain, and maximize a mentorship experience.

The course was developed to meet the following Public Health Core Competencies in the Leadership and Systems Thinking domain:

  • Participates in mentoring and peer review or coaching opportunities (Tier 1).
  • Establishes mentoring, peer advising, coaching, or other personal development opportunities for the public health workforce (Tier 2).

OFFERED BY: USF Health’s Center for Leadership in Public Health Practice (CLPHP)COST: Free
REGISTRATION: Go to CLPHP’s course page for instructions.

FPHTC-OMP Participants: All of the courses mentioned above are for professional development and can be applied towards program completion.

Taking the Lead on Your Leadership

“Do I have the characteristics of a good leader?” Sarah Matthews, MPH, asks herself. As the epidemiology program manager at Orange County Health Department and a participant in the FPHTC Online Mentor Program, she recently took the online course The Art and Science of Ethical and Effective Public Health Leadership from USF’s Center for Leadership in Public Health Practice (CLPHP). “What areas are mine to improve and on what do I have direct influence?” she reflects.

Photo Credit: Sean Dreilinger

These are all great questions- and ones that may not always have simple answers. But learning the basic concepts of public health leadership and professional ethics can certainly pave part of one’s path to success.

“I learned that the organizational climate is directly influenced by the leader’s leadership and management style,” says Matthews. “I also gained the knowledge that the behavior and character of a leader are the most important factors that impact your organization’s ethical climate.”

Course facilitator, and public health leader himself, Dr. Adewale Troutman stresses that leaders can often influence culture, but they cannot easily change or create new culture that is not already part of an organization.  “I found this concept profound because it gave permission to not consider it a failure in leadership if you do not succeed in changing the culture but know that you may have succeeded in influencing it,” says Matthews.

In the course, Dr. Troutman defines “vision” very simply: “you must be able to see a thing before you can have a thing.” Makes sense, right? A leader must outline and communicate his vision before he can influence change.

Some might think certain people are born leaders. But that’s not always true. One can learn leadership skills and develop their skills through self-study education, training, and experience, according to Dr. Troutman. “This course is a worthwhile step in the area of self-study education and training,” says Matthews. “Dr. Troutman simplifies the primary functions of a leader and reiterates the basics in leadership, making this course a great introduction to your leadership development.”

Click here to learn more about the FREE leadership course or click here to enroll.