Modeling to Quantify the Capacity and Efficacy of Emergency Preparedness and Response Systems: A Study of the North Carolina Health Alert Network

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Title: Modeling to Quantify the Capacity and Efficacy of Emergency Preparedness and Response Systems: A Study of the North Carolina Health Alert Network
Author: Wynter, Sharolyn Antonia
Advisors: Julie S. Ivy, Committee Chair
Abstract: Following the attacks of September 11th, the growing fear of a bioterrorist attack emerged within the United States and pushed the threat of bioterrorism to the forefront of the public health emergency preparedness and response agenda. Despite the investment of more than six billion dollars in federal funding towards emergency preparedness and response initiatives, well defined and broadly accepted performance measures for determining the efficacy of these systems have yet to be established. Because of the complex and dynamic conditions under which emergency preparedness and response systems must perform, it is becoming apparent that traditional measures of evaluating the performance of public health systems simply will not suffice. The inability to accurately capture and quantify this information has created knowledge gaps which hinder our ability to measure our true level of preparedness and ultimately weakens our response capacity. It is therefore essential that we develop methodologies that enable us to establish valid metrics which capture the information needed to quantify the capacity and efficacy of these systems. As a key information sharing and communication component of North Carolina’s Public Health Information Network (NC PHIN), the North Carolina Health Alert Network (NCHAN) serves as a promising means to measure emergency preparedness and response capacity. The goal of this thesis is to present a methodology for extending approaches in operations research and systems engineering to better understand the value of emergency preparedness and response systems, such as NCHAN. Ultimately we seek to determine how NCHAN has aided to emergency preparedness and response by quantifying the added value of the system to the greater “preparedness and response†process. We demonstrate the use of statistical analysis, simulation and the IDEF0 mapping process as valid tools for modeling and quantifying the less-tangible aspects of emergency preparedness and response. We find that although the capacity exists within NCHAN to increase emergency preparedness and response, other factors, such as usage variability amongst NCHAN users, lack of integration with other NC PHIN components, and limited capacity of tangible system resources (such as labs, funding and public health practitioners) limits the efficacy of NCHAN. These findings suggest that user standardization, component integration and proper resource allocation will be necessary in order to realize the true value of emergency preparedness and response systems.
Date: 2009-08-05
Degree: MS
Discipline: Operations Research

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