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Posted on: December 14, 2022

OP/ED: Public Health Emergency Preparedness is About Much More Than the Pandemic

PHEP Graphic
Cochise County's Director of Health and Social Services, Alicia Thompson, explores issues relating to Public Health Emergency Preparedness

County Government department structures and missions are diverse and often confusing to the layperson and to leaders. In the realm of Public Health, our services are varied, as you can see from the side bar information. This article is to highlight the   Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) program.  

Some background: the work that Cochise County Health & Social Services does in support of our communities requires fiscal approval by the Board of Supervisors. On Nov. 29th at the regular board meeting the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) contract was on the agenda. 

I listened as the supervisors discussed the PHEP program in terms of the COVID-19 response only. This is understandable since the pandemic pushed PHEP into the spotlight. Still, it is important for the community and leaders to understand that public health emergency preparedness is so much broader than this one event (the pandemic).  

The Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) funding originated from the dreadful 9/11 attacks on our country.  Our PHEP program helps us to partner with County Emergency Management, Fire Departments, Law Enforcement, Hospitals, primary care providers, Red Cross, and more, to ensure the health of our communities is addressed during all types of emergencies.  

Most recently CCHSS was a partner with other responders to the flooding in St. David, the straight-line wind event outside of Douglas, and the water outage in Bowie. Our PHEP program is not only to help respond to COVID-19 hospital surges or to help get points of distribution set up for vaccine. The PHEP program is an integral piece of the puzzle when our community experiences any type of emergency.

I want to assure our community that the definitions of what is an emergency are not arbitrary. Recently our Cochise County Emergency Management Department asked for your input on our Multi-Jurisdiction Hazard Mitigation Plan.   Within that plan on page 47 there is a list of potential hazards (emergencies) in Cochise County.  Public Health expands that list to include “a range of public health threats, including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological events”.

I am thankful that the Board of Supervisors continued to support PHEP and approved the funding of this grant. Now, CCHSS will continue to have our PHEP program and we will continue to provide resources and support to our community partners. We will be available to assist with response to questions regarding infectious disease outbreaks. We will work with County Emergency Management to request emergency staffing for the hospitals, as we did last year.  

CCHSS works to support healthy people living in a health community, it is our mission and our passion.  We simply cannot do this work without the support of our elected officials, community partners, and funders. Thank you all for your support for Public Health in Cochise County.

Alicia Thompson

Alicia M Thompson, DrPH, LMSW

CCHSS programs include: Health Start a program for at risk families, WIC a program that provides nutritional support and education to pregnant moms and their children up to five years old, Teen Pregnancy Prevention a program that helps youth to avoid unplanned pregnancies, the Suicide and Overdose Fatality Review boards which provide community recommendations on how to reduce these unnecessary deaths, Tobacco Prevention a program that focuses on helping community members quit tobacco products, Chronic Disease Education a program that provides education to those with heart, kidney, respiratory and other chronic diseases, Clinical Services which include immunizations, STD investigation, TB surveillance, reproductive health services, helping child care centers, and more, Detention Health Services which provides our inmate at the jail with healthcare services, Environmental Health Services which ensure when we go out to eat at a restaurant that we don’t get sick, inspection of pools, and more,   Public Fiduciary which helps individuals who are unable to help themselves to navigate the complexities of life, Vital Records which helps people to get copies of their death and birth certificates in a timely manner, as well as our indigent/abandoned burial program, and transportation to the Medical Examiner, PHEP we have already talked about, and more.  Visit us at Health & Social Services | Cochise County, AZ

Herald Review Media article, Dec. 29, 2022
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