Pediatrics and Public Health: Working Together to Prepare for EmergenciesPosted on by
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Did you know that one in four people in the United States are children? Children represent a considerable portion of our population and they are among our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. When a public health emergency or disaster strikes, children are often the most severely affected.
Think back on recent public health emergencies, like the 2009 Swine flu (H1N1 influenza) pandemic, the Ebola outbreak in 2014, the presence of lead in drinking water in Flint, Michigan, and the emergence of the Zika virus in 2016. All of these emergencies had an effect on the health and well-being of children, and they highlight the unique physical, emotional and social needs of children that require special consideration when preparing for an emergency.
What Can You Do to Keep Your Kids Safe in an Emergency?
There are many ways you can practice keeping your children safe during an emergency. Check out some of the resources below for ideas on how you can keep your family prepared:
- Make creating your emergency kit fun. Let your kids pick out some snacks and games and be sure to have a kit at home and in the car!
- Get your kids involved with emergency preparedness with Ready Wrigley games, coloring pages, and checklists.
- Make and practice plans for where to go and how to communicate in case of an emergency.
What is CDC Doing to Protect Kids in an Emergency?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) makes the needs of children a priority at every level of planning for an emergency. One critical way to achieve this is to have pediatricians and local and state public health professionals collaborate on planning for an emergency so as to ensure that children’s needs are met.
CDC’s Children’s Preparedness Unit (CPU) and Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, in collaboration with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recently held CDC’s first ever public health and pediatric virtual tabletop exercise. A tabletop exercise uses a made-up public health emergency scenario that helps professionals gain experience by “role playing” through an emergency response. In the case of this pediatric tabletop exercise, public health officials and pediatricians from AAP chapters in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska worked through a smallpox outbreak scenario affecting children. Using web-based technology to connect participants, the exercise was facilitated from CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, and teams from each state participated remotely. Throughout the exercise, the teams evaluated how their state’s emergency plans and procedures worked during the scenario, how the teams responded, and what changes were needed to ensure the safety and health of children.
“This exercise represented an important opportunity for the public health and pediatric communities to share their unique perspectives and experiences,” says Dr. Georgina Peacock, CPU’s founder and the Director of the Division of Human Development and Disability at CDC. “By working together to respond to a simulated but realistic emergency, participants were able to see firsthand how working together across diverse areas of expertise can save children’s lives.”
CDC hopes to help more states carry out similar virtual preparedness exercises so they can better protect children during emergencies. In addition, CDC plans to develop a user-friendly exercise toolkit specifically for the needs of children. This toolkit will be available as a virtual package to rural communities and other jurisdictions to expand preparedness planning opportunities in these communities.