October 3, 2023

The UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health has been selected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop a five-year work plan for a Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response (PHEPR) coordinating center, to be established in 2024 through a competitive CDC Notice of Funding Opportunity.

The work will be for a center in Region 4, which would serve as a resource for training, strategy and technical assistance to public health agencies in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, with a focus on increasing the adoption of evidence-based practices that can help state, local and Tribal agencies prepare and respond to future public health emergencies.

The coronavirus pandemic put immense stress on public health systems in the U.S., which are mostly decentralized and vary in access to the resources, data analysis, staffing and expertise that are critical to swift emergency response. The new PHEPR centers are part of the CDC’s effort to collaborate with agencies and improve the safeguards, resources, response plans and communications necessary to mitigate harm and health inequities in the event of another disease outbreak or natural disaster.

Dr. John Wiesman

Dr. John Wiesman

“We’ve learned a lot from the response to COVID-19, and this is an exciting opportunity to apply them in ways that can improve preparedness while ensuring equity and increasing public trust for the next public health emergency,” said John Wiesman, DrPH, associate dean for practice at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. “We are thrilled that CDC has selected us to assist in the planning for this critical resource. Our school’s long history of community-engaged scholarship and our deep network of local public health connections makes us an ideal partner.”

An integral part of the UNC-led project will be to establish a coordinating body of experts from state, local and Tribal health departments and officials, health care facilities, and health care coalitions that will inform the work plan’s development. This effort will include establishing focus areas, strategies and practices to improve public health preparedness and response in ways that are informed by the needs of the community, or communities, involved.

The team at UNC will also help develop an adaptable and flexible regional data ecosystem model that can incorporate diverse data sources, support collection of perishable data during an emergency and scale up or down as needed to meet the demands of one or more public health emergencies.

Wiesman will lead the planning efforts along with a group of Gillings School experts in the North Carolina Institute for Public Health (NCIPH) and the Collaborative Studies Coordinating Center (CSCC).

Collaborators on the project include Kevin Anstrom, PhD, co-project director, and project managers John Wallace, PhD, MSPH, and Lisa Strader, DrPH, MPH.

Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@unc.edu.

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