Using an Innovative Electronic Interface to Develop a Drought Guidance Document for Public Health Practitioners, 2008

CAPT Mark D. Miller, R.S., M.P.H.

Robert G. Blake, R.E.H.S., M.P.H.

Professor Steven Konkel, Ph.D.

Valeria P. Carlson, B.S., M.P.H.


There is a lack of consolidated guidance regarding the public health impacts of drought in the United States.In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) undertook the development of a Drought Guidance Document, based on sound science, which will provide useful information to decision makers whose responsibility includes addressing the public health impacts of drought.


The Environmental Health Services Branch at the CDCís National Center for Environmental Health convened a forum to explore the impacts of drought on public health with 38 subject matter experts. Expertsí professional fields included public health, water industry, agriculture, finance, parasitology, emergency response, environmental regulation, and geology. Experts attended a three-day consultancy forum in Atlanta to share their knowledge on a variety of drought and public health topics including definitions of drought, direct and indirect public health impacts of drought, and how public health practitioners can become involved in planning for drought. Throughout the consultancy forum, participants held multiple simultaneous discussions with one another through a system of networked laptops, supplemented by facilitated oral discussions.


A technical writer/editor is developing a guidance document for public health agencies faced with drought based on the information captured during the consultancy forum. The purpose of this Document is to provide public health leaders and decision makers with information that will allow for a greater understanding of drought and its impacts on public health, and to provide guidance for mitigating the health impacts of drought. Sections of the Document address many possible public health implications associated with drought, including compromised quantity and quality of potable water, increased recreational risks, impacts on air quality, diminished living conditions, compromised food and nutrition, and increased incidence of illness and disease.


The Document will provide in-depth information about how water shortages affect public health, recommend steps to help mitigate the health effects of drought, identify future needs for research, provide a list of resources and tools, and provide examples of best practices and lessons learned.The Document will be distributed to all state, local, tribal, and territorial health agencies.