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TASB Risk Management Fund
INSIDERM

Core Elements of a Public Health and Medical Plan

August 18, 2020 Melanie Moss

Emergency response planning

Epidemics, outbreaks, and pandemics have the power to derail a school’s educational mission. The Fund encourages members to prepare not only to efficiently manage a variety of illnesses but also  to address the concerns of parents, students, and communities.

A school-based health program is one of the most effective tools against potentially contagious diseases and viruses such as measles, flu, strep throat, bronchitis, and COVID-19. As part of your program, collaborate with public health officials to develop a public health and medical plan and adopt it as an annex to your emergency operations plan.

What should your plan include?

Public health and medical plans represent a framework that promotes a consistent, coordinated response to emergencies. Despite their flexible nature, solid plans include a handful of core elements.

Stakeholder involvement

It is not uncommon for the impact of an emergency to extend into the surrounding community. In addition, first responders will often be called on to mitigate the impact. It is in your organization’s best interests to build strong partnerships with emergency management personnel, first responders, public health officials, board members, faculty, staff, students, volunteers, parents, and the community. Leverage those partnerships when preparing for any emergency, not just those with health implications.

Infection control

The current pandemic reminds us how quickly and widely an illness can spread. Thorough cleaning helps contain many illnesses, including COVID-19 and seasonal flu. Your public health and medical plan should clearly outline your washing and disinfection procedures. The plan should also account for surveillance and health education as infection control strategies.

Disease surveillance is a collaboration that enables all levels of public health to share information to monitor, control, and prevent the occurrence and spread of reportable diseases. The goal is to monitor disease trends, detect illnesses, and increase knowledge of risk factors. District absentee logs play a crucial role in syndrome surveillance systems that monitor key community data to detect unusual symptoms or illness patterns.

Promoting recommended vaccines is a key health education strategy that should be part of your plan. Cleaning and disinfection procedures should encourage staff and students to develop simple, yet powerful habits such as washing hands frequently, coughing and sneezing into a tissue or sleeve, and staying home when sick.

Communication

Public health and medical plans should outline strategies for communicating with internal and external partners, as well as summarize procedures for informing the public of normal and emergency operations. During a public health emergency, your organization should work closely with the local, regional, and state health departments to provide clear and consistent information about the situation and announce whether corrective or emergency actions are underway.

To the extent possible, emergency information must:

  • Describe what happened
  • Define which areas were affected
  • Share the potential impact on the district and its stakeholders
  • Describe measures the district is taking to ensure the safety and well-being of students, faculty, and staff
  • Relay information regarding expectations and where to turn for more information.

Continuity of operations

A solid school-based health program can go a long way toward keeping staff, students, and the community healthy. Still, an outbreak of a serious illness such as COVID-19 can impact any organization. You should identify essential functions and educational programs as part of the planning process.

From there, establish strategies for ensuring continuity of operations in the face of significant, extended staffing and resource shortages. Allow flexibility in programs that are important to staff and students. Examples include perfect attendance incentives, graduation schedules, and extracurricular activities.

Need a public health and medical plan?

The Fund is here to support our members and help them prepare for, respond to, and recover from medical crises, natural disasters, school violence, and other emergencies. Members of our Auto, Liability, Property, and Workers’ Compensation programs can request a customizable public health and medical plan template from Emergency Management and School Security Consultant
Melanie Moss at 512.505.2868 or melanie.moss@tasb.org.

Tagged: "disaster planning", "disease prevention", "emergency management"