Business Planning and Flu Epidemics

Like everyone else in the public health community, we have been thinking a lot about swine flu lately. Public health leaders, managers and practitioners are scrambling to plan for what may come.

I recently contact John Dreyzehner, District Director of the Cumberland Plateau Health District in the Virginia Department of Health. Dr. Dreyzehner has sent many teams to the Management Academy over the years. We wrote about some of those in Chapter 7 of the book, “Competitors and Partners,” pages 68 – 69. One of the programs produced by a team from Dr. Dreyzehner’s district was called “Flu’s Clues,” an influenza vaccination program for children ages 3 – 9, based at the local Head Start programs and elementary schools

Steve and I posted back in November (17th and 20th) about “Flu’s Clues.” The program is now in its third year – now called “See you later fluigator” or “Fluigator” for short, with a sick alligator as a mascot, to avoid intellectual property issues. I asked Dr. Drehzehner whether having the program in place was making swine flu preparation any easier. Here are his thoughts:

“[The vaccination program] certainly increases ours and our partners confidence in being able to push out vaccines and treatments. At this point we can do points of distribution/Dispensing (PODs) in our sleep. The challenge at the moment, as is to be expected, is universal agreement on how/if to widely employ the present Tamiflu resource and to do it in a fashion that is consistent with legal equirements and good medical practice.

“There is understanding that we have to target it to the ill for treatment and, some think, their caretakers to begin at the first sign of illness. In one concept of operations I drafted we have accessible PODs open 8-12 hours daily at various location as drive through or walk -up (will spacing to prevent transmission). No ill (but sometimes exposed people) come in and complete and sign a medical attestation form regarding the illness in the person they are responsible for and get a course for that person(s) AND a reserve course for themselves and any other exposed in the household/place exposed to begin with the onset of fever and respiratory symptoms. In this way, the entire population can be assured the treatment is available for use in 12 hours or less to any one at any time. This works as long as this tricky virus remains sensitive. That is the readers digest version of one of my plans. But it is very doable.”

It sounds as if the Cumberland Plateau Health District is ready to do what it needs to do to address this possible epidemic. The challenge is deciding exactly what ought to be done – but it’s good to have the infrastructure in place to do it. They have that infrastructure in place because somebody thought of an idea, they partnered with important community institutions, they wrote a business plan that accounted for funding it, and they implemented it.

Let's hear from some of our readers -- what are you doing about swine flu? What obstacles are you coming up against?