Friday, 11 September 2009 00:00
Given the nature of the new H1N1 flu and given the degree of interest which the media has shown, your statewide initiative is important and welcomed.
Certainly the Town Hall concept is useful but needs to be planned, scheduled in advance and done at a time when the intended participants are available. Today all key decision makers for each school district are either running their districts’ just commenced new school year or involved in planned administrative meetings for the new school year commencing within days.
I would like to make a few brief points as to the areas the State needs to sharply improve upon, if we New Yorkers are to successfully meet this challenge.
First, the government (DOH, SED, County) needs to continually discuss H1N1 as part of an ongoing public health initiative. Examples: Previous initiatives on SARS, West Nile Virus, MRSA, other airborne and blood borne pathogens…all this within the last decade. Hardly ancient history, but seemingly forgotten to our multitasking constituents. Important because H1N1 may well have a different public health profile within weeks or days.
Second, communication Pathways. The current guidelines are hierarchical and non-interactive. What policy is advanced if the school districts report to the county and to the state but have neither indication nor assurance they will get information back in a timely (and useful) fashion? Getting the information back is essential because that is who and where the decision making has to occur. [Apparently one site is used to report, but this is password protected, so its merits, or lack thereof, are closeted.]
Third, rationalization of information. The information posted on websites is difficult to find, organized (being generous with the word “organized”) in a confusing fashion and scattered over different governmental agencies and, within the agencies, over different web pages. There needs to be “one-stop” shopping for New York and for each county. An examination of today’s state Internet information reflects the week by week development of H1N1 in 2009; the information now needs to be rethought, consolidated and centralized.
Fourth, the state needs to provide more frequent information in its updates and its message. Messages concerning the value of vaccinations, the specific nature of the H1N1 shots (one shot, two shots, three shots?) and the likely prospect of the new vaccines availability. Additionally there needs to be a thoughtful background as to what statistically happens to vulnerable populations even in the absence of the added factor of H1N1, as well as statistics of past years, (by state, by county, by month) in order to put into context the implications of new cases.
Fifth, rethink the local testing or reporting process. Certainly the laboratory resources are scarce but sometimes random testing will help local school officials determine if the one-third of the absent students are not there due to parental caution or due to the fact they have the flu. This then can be a valuable tool to determine how to protect the remaining two-thirds of the student in a given district.
Sixth. Roundtable Summit on LI; Come back again, but on a collaborative basis; I would be willing to convene LI health leaders to establish a roundtable and a summit so the decision makers in the schools, universities, hospitals, public health organizations (and others) can have an expectation as to the decision-making process, the information process and the communication process. This needs to be done in the next two to six weeks.
6th Senate District
(Editor’s Note: This letter was originally sent to Health Commissioner Daines and Interim Commissioner Huxley and is printed here at the author’s request.)