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Story from the Field


Name of Health Department/Agency: Houston Health and Human Services
State: TX
Date Added: 02/12/2010
Themes: Communications - General H1N1
Issue Summary: H1N1 Influenza Community Outreach
Description of Issue(s):

Houston Department of Health and Human Services, (HDDHS) is engaged in the mission of promoting and protecting the health and social well-being of Houstonians. The Health Department is part of a regional, state and national effort to protect the citizens of Houston from health issues and to ensure that we are prepared during times of crisis.
 
As the United States responded to the potential threats of the H1N1 Influenza, HDHHS proactively prepared for the impending impacts of the pandemic. Serving as the local public health authority, HDHHS provided H1N1 Influenza guidance to citizens, school districts, childcare centers, and faith based communities, hospitals, and health care providers and other pertinent stakeholders.
                          
An Incident Command Structure (ICS) was implemented to provide accurate and timely information regarding the spread and severity of the H1N1 Influenza outbreak to the Mayor of Houston. The ICS facilitated decision making, policy development and disease prevention during the H1N1 outbreak.
 
Public demand for immunization and dissemination of critical influenza related information was at the forefront of the HDHHS agenda. Due to the potential of H1N1 Influenzaadversely affecting the health and well-being of Houstonians, HDHHS directed resources to aide in reducing the incidence of illness and death caused by H1N1 Influenza.
 
Additionally, the Response Specialist Team (RST) was activated to increase community outreach efforts. The team consisted of 30 team members that are cross-trained in functional areas ranging from epidemiology to psychological first aid. The RST was available to quickly respond to emergency needs in the department and the community.
 
H1N1 Influenza vaccines arrived in late October 2009 for high-risk members of the community. During the initial stages, the emphasis of the project was to mobilize health care workers (HCW) with direct contact to young children and those caring for them. Internal mobilization and education targeted employees assigned to the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) programs and other staff who had daily contact with young children and mothers.
 
Monitoring the H1N1 Influenza outbreaks provided sufficient information to assist HDHHS epidemiological surveillance documentation regarding the evolution and possible growth of the pandemic. For more information, visit www.houstonflu.org.

Actions taken to address the issue(s): Please refer to attached strategic plan for more details associated with our response efforts.
Outcomes that resulted from actions taken: The outcome of our outreach has increased public awareness of the potential and documented threats associated with H1N1 Influenza and augmented our efforts in reducing incidences. Our "Fight the Flu" campaign escalated our stakeholders' interests in seeking protection.

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