Is California prepared for a public health emergency?

California Poison Control System and statewide area health education center program accept disaster preparedness role

The California Poison Control System (CPCS), a unit of the School of Pharmacy, Department of Clinical Pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco in conjunction with the California's Statewide Area Health Education Center Program (AHEC) has been awarded a US$1.5 million federal grant to help prepare California health professionals to rapidly and effectively respond to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies. These funds, awarded September 30, 2003, will be used to create the California Preparedness Education Network (Cal-PEN), a network of skilled educators that will prepare California health professionals to respond to public health emergencies such as exposure to biological, chemical, nuclear, incendiary or explosive agents.

The grant, funded by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA), Bureau of Health Professions, will specifically address gaps in crisis and disaster preparedness education by training health professionals in the state's diverse underserved communities.

"In these uncertain times, it is critical that California's health workforce is equipped with the necessary skills and tools to be prepared for any kind of disaster," said Stu Heard, CPCS executive director. "Cal-PEN will ensure that health professionals across the state including those in rural and underserved communities will have access to information to ensure their emergency preparedness," added John Blossom, director, Cal AHEC.

Cal-PEN training sessions will teach recognition of potential or actual terrorism and related public health emergencies, immediate care of victims, and proper notification of local, state and national authorities. Interdisciplinary teams from the CPCS will conduct training in target communities with discipline-appropriate clinically oriented materials. Special training will focus on collaboration and coordination and will include content relevant to providers serving California's multiple cultural groups, the elderly and other vulnerable populations.

In its first year, the program will teach more than 2,500 health professionals to recognize indications of a terrorist event or other public health emergency and meet the immediate needs of patients. In addition, health professionals will be trained to alert the public health system at a local, state and national level; participate in coordinated, multidisciplinary responses to events; and participate in live drills.

The CPCS is the statewide provider of immediate, free and expert treatment advice and assistance over the telephone in case of exposure to poisonous, hazardous or toxic substances. The CPCS, California's leading source for this critical, up-to-date information is accessible, toll-free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year at 1-800-876-4766.

The California AHEC is a 30-year-old organization of partnerships. It brings together community and academic interests to improve access to health care and decrease health disparities. Each AHEC develops, with its partners, a population-based approach to health profession education with a special emphasis on community-based training. Blossom noted that with this grant, the Cal AHEC, which is administered by the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, will expand its role in the state.


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About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.