Presentation:   Local Sanitarian Response to H1N1: Responsibilities, Roles, and Lessons Learned

Speaker:          Beth Ransopher, RS; Paul Rosile, MPH, RS; Charles D. Broschart; Matthew Caudill, BA, EMT-P; David Selvage, MHS, PA-C



As the number of cases of H1N1 Pandemic Influenza increased in 2009, the Environmental Health role in support of the largest public health event in decades began to develop. This session will focus on the planning and response efforts of two local public health agencies located in the same county and the responsibilities and roles Environmental Health professionals performed in this clinically-based public health community response.



As the President of the United States and the Governor of Ohio declared a public health emergency to respond to the H1N1 Pandemic Influenza outbreak, it was vital that Environmental Health staff be effectively utilized during the planning, implementation, and delivery of the largest mass vaccination program ever conducted.  In an era of great economic downturn our health departments were significantly challenged in its response to this event. It was important for Environmental Health practitioners to be flexible in accepting non-traditional roles in support of the overall public health response. Columbus Public Health (CPH) and the Franklin County Board of Health (FCBH), located in Columbus, Ohio, used different response models which affected how Environmental Health professionals were utilized in the H1N1 response efforts. 


When the first H1N1 cases arrived in Central Ohio in the spring of 2009, both departments responded by sharing a Unified Command System (UCS) approach, but mobilized their Environmental Health staff in different roles. For example, CPH utilized several Emergency Preparedness staff, who are also Registered Sanitarians, in roles such as command and management planners, UCS section chiefs, trainers, and media marketing campaign coordinators.  In the fall of 2009 both departments managed separate Incident Command System (ICS) approaches. The FCBH, for instance, incorporated their Environmental Health staff within the ICS management structure of the H1N1 Point of Distribution clinics to coordinate Medical Reserve Corps volunteers and manage various POD stations such as screening, registration, crowd control, and observation. 


Both departments used Environmental Health staff to inspect 359 registered vaccine provider locations in less than two weeks. Senior Sanitarians were used to make the initial contacts and to conduct on-site facility inspections of the medical providers that applied to receive the vaccine as primary vaccinators in the community.  


Even though this was a clinically-based public health community response, Environmental Health staff at CPH and the FCBH contributed by using their special skills and abilities to ensure a successful H1N1 mass immunization campaign be conducted within our respective communities.  Between October 2009 and February 2010 both health departments combined have immunized a total of 68,375 people at 387 clinics. 



Learning Objectives:

At the end of this Lecture Hall presentation, attendees will be able to:


1.       Compare and contrast the response of Environmental Health staff from two local health departments located within the same county to the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic Influenza outbreak.

2.       Name two roles and responsibilities Environmental Health professionals at CPH and/or the FCBH performed in planning and responding to the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic Influenza outbreak.

3.       Describe at least three roles/stations/duties Environmental Health professionals at CPH and/or the FCBH actively performed at their H1N1 Pandemic Influenza Mass Vaccination clinics.