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Bay Area Mass Prophylaxis Working Group

July 21, 2010

I really do dislike being all doom and gloom all the time around here. I would much rather tell about this phenomenally cool new tool that I found that serves so many functions and incorporates best practices into a rainbow-filled spectacle of public health preparedness nirvana. Trouble is, those types of things are few and far between. So when I find one, that’s when I get excited.

Guess what? I found one.

I have, in the past, done a smidge of work with the Bay Area Mass Prophylaxis Working Group. I had an idea they found interesting and they reached out — out of the blue, looking for new and unique ideas about how to do mass prophy. This is a forward-leaning group that is on the look out for best practices (not that my idea was a best practice, but it was different and they were interested).

A colleague forwarded the Working Group’s website (http://bayareadisastermeds.org/) to me the other day and I fell in love with it. Most importantly, I love that it’s there — now. Each of the 14 counties and municipalities can put that website address on their website, fact sheets, Facebook pages, National Preparedness Month posters, everything. People can stop by today and get information on what mass prophylaxis is, and what it means to them.

That’s important because the website serves two functions. First, as a preparedness tool. The site is divided into different sections depending on why someone has come there. There is information what a POD is, information for organizations that could function as push partners, or closed PODs, and there is information on volunteering to work during a mass prophylaxis campaign (including training). The information for the general public and volunteers is absolutely useful, but I think you can find examples of this other places. I’m really excited about the inclusion of information for push partners.

As an aside, for folks who don’t know, push partners (while not terribly well-defined as a term) are groups or organizations who would somehow receive bulk prophylaxis and become the primary distributor to some defined group of people. I know that some large corporations have undertaken this role and will provide meds to all of their employees and their families. This is beneficial to the employees because then they don’t have to stand in the huge general public POD lines. The LHDs also don’t have to worry about thousands of people showing up to their public PODs, thereby cutting down on the wait. (Is is possible to have an aside to an aside? Let’s see. There are criticisms of this process that only large corporations — like those who employ more wealthy and educated [and white] work forces — are big enough to act as push sites or closed PODs, and this can be construed as preferential treatment.)

The next reason I fell in love with this site is that it can so easily be turned into a response site. Members of the public can go there to find out where the closest PODs are and to download fact sheets and (super, duper cool) fill out their head of household form before leaving the house! Volunteers can stop by after getting notified and re-watch the training videos as a quick refresher course before heading out to start their shifts. Push partners can learn all kinds of last-minute updated information, when the warehouse is opening, when they should report, they can download screening forms and fact sheets for distribution in their facilities.

Yes, there are some pages that aren’t finished yet, but I know of nothing else like this in the US. (Correct me if I’m wrong!) And that’s a shame. This is easy to pull together and can end up being a critical piece of your emergency outreach and public information efforts. (And don’t even get me started on the amazing level of regional coordination going into pulling this together.)

Kudos to you, Bay Area Mass Prophylaxis Working Group.

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