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New Centers Address Critical Training Needs

By Brian W. Simpson

One year after rallying its intellectual resources to help protect a nation stunned by terrorism, the School has launched three new centers dedicated to improving the skills and knowledge of the public health workforce.

As the School’s Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies and the Hopkins Public Health Scientists Working to Address Terrorism (SWAT) continue working on policy, research, and national preparedness, the new centers will focus on a key weakness in the nation’s public health infrastructure: training for its workers.

The centers address “the fact that more than three-fourths of the people working in public health in the country are not trained in the core competencies of public health,” says Lynn Goldman , MD, MPH ’81, MS, a director of one of the new centers.

A well-educated, skilled public health workforce can better respond to threats, whether they be day-to-day public health challenges or bioterrorist attacks, says Dean Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS ’73.

The MidAtlantic Public Health Training Center, the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health Preparedness, and the Center of Excellence in Community Environmental Health Practice may have different goals, but they will work closely together, sharing faculty, training materials, and the results of needs assessments, he says. “We’re able to deliver much more bang for the buck by coordinating this effort,” Sommer notes.

The centers have already sponsored an Aug. 6 risk communication seminar in Baltimore. A smallpox symposium, co-sponsored by the SWAT team, is scheduled for Sept. 25 and will school public health workers in the biology and epidemiology of the disease. A two-day course on training workers in the age of bioterrorism will follow on Oct. 26. Future training will deliver courses via the Web through the School’s Distance Education Division, allowing public health workers to pursue certificates in public health, and ultimately earn MPH degrees.

The centers and their primary goals are:

Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health Preparedness
(Principal Investigator: Robert Lawrence, MD, associate dean and professor). One of 15 centers across the nation supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, JHCPHP is funded by its first yearlong $986,000 grant to help train public health workers in Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, D.C., to deal with public health emergencies, including bioterrorism.

Center of Excellence in Com-munity Environmental Health Practice
(Principal Investigator: Thomas Burke, PhD, MPH, professor, Health Policy and Management). Funded by a three-year $900,000 CDC cooperative agreement, CECEHP will educate practitioners in environmental issues such as water quality, indoor air quality, and hazardous waste sites, according to Beth Resnick, MPH ' 95, CECEHP associate director. The Center is also investigating the creation of Hopkins response teams that will rapidly assist government agencies during emergencies.

MidAtlantic Public Health Training Center
(Director and Co-Principal Investigator: Lynn Goldman , professor, Environmental Health Sciences). The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) launched MAPHTC with a five-year $1.9 million grant. MAPHTC has begun a comprehensive needs assessment of 15,000 public health workers in Maryland, Delaware, and Washing-ton, D.C., to determine training needs. MAPHTC will then share the information with centers at the School and work with regional university partners to design training.

In addition to the new centers, the School’s Center for Law and the Public’s Health has received a $240,000 boost to its CDC funding to teach public health workers across the country about the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act. The model legislation, drafted by a team at the Center, grants the states quarantine and other powers during extreme emergencies. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have already adopted the law or portions of it. Public health workers in those areas need to understand their powers and responsibilities, says Stephen Teret , JD, MPH ’79, a director of the Center. Though seminars will need to be tailored to each state’s version of the law, Teret says the main lesson for public health workers remains the same: “They have an obligation to protect the public’s health and also to protect individual dignity and civil rights.”