Background: The challenges encountered during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic tested local health departments’ preparedness plans, requiring ingenuity and unprecedented partnerships. The vaccine shortage and institution of priority groups created a demand for vaccine that would have been extremely difficult to manage without cooperation from non-traditional immunization partners. The Baltimore County Department of Health (BCDH) enlisted the support and expertise of various colleague agencies and departments in every aspect of its efforts to prevent the spread of H1N1 influenza.
Setting: Baltimore County, Maryland.
Population: Baltimore County residents and other individuals who patronized the County’s H1N1 immunization clinics.
Project Description: The Baltimore County Department of Health effectively mobilized the following non-traditional partners to implement an H1N1 response: Homeland Security and Emergency Management; the Department of Aging; Public Schools; Police; Public Works; Budget and Finance; Communication; Community Conservation; Corrections; Human Resources; Information Technology; and Recreation and Parks. Examples of partners’ contributions include (1) volunteers recruited by the Department of Volunteers; (2) Public Works providing message boards on primary roads to alert the public about clinics; (3) Human Resources expediting hiring of temporary staff; (4) Information Technology providing or upgrading equipment to meet technical demand; (5) Budget and Finance expediting the purchase of clinic equipment; and (6) Community Conservation facilitating vaccination of the homeless population.
Results/Lessons Learned: Responding to a public health emergency requires participation from agencies that typically are not viewed as public health partners. The “all hands on deck” approach that was asserted by BCDH was embraced by non-traditional partners. Local health departments must leverage these relationships to protect the public’s health in times of crisis and during “routine” operations. These partnerships may be particularly relevant in light of budget constraints. Exploration of these collaborations will reveal agencies that are eager to share resources to attenuate the impact of public health emergencies.