For more than 17 years, North Carolina has maintained a public health preparedness program that invests in sustainable planning, infrastructure building, and response and recovery components. Progress in workforce development, infrastructure capacity, building partnerships has been achieved at the state, local and tribal level statewide. This has been evidenced by the system’s ability to respond to and recover from many small and large-scale incidents and events. Utilizing the PHEP capabilities and domains, honest post-incident evaluation and continuous self-evaluation has led to system-wide improvements, enhancements and steady progress and growth. A strong relationship with the Healthcare Preparedness Program to ensure Emergency Support Function 8 functions and joint requirements are carried out continues in NC.
The North Carolina PHEP and response system includes functions and enhanced infrastructure across the preparedness and response continuum. The North Carolina Disease Event Tracking and Epidemiologic Collection Tool (NC DETECT), our syndromic surveillance system, is informed by emergency department and emergency medical services data to warn of a possible public health significant event and is complimented by a surveillance staff at the state level and public health epidemiologists based at major hospitals. An alerting mechanism, NC Health Alert Network (NCHAN) alerts public health and medical personnel of public health significant concerns. Engagement with the 85 local health departments and the federally recognized tribe, the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians (EBCI) is accomplished vertically from the Public Health Preparedness and Response Branch’s (PHPR) PHEP Director engaging local health department directors at the monthly NC Association of Local Health Director meetings. This engagement is continued with the PHPR staff engaging health departments and EBCI directly through monthly local health department preparedness coordinator meetings, work groups at the regional level, and onsite visits to our local health departments and EBCI. The State Laboratory of Public Health houses one of fourteen advanced LRN-B laboratories in the LRN network and stands ready to participate in multicenter validations, assay development, and technology evaluations. It’s state-of-the-art high containment laboratory (BSL 3+) provides emergency testing services to the State and ensures the ability to expeditiously transport, test, and report on threat samples. The SLPH Level 2 LRN-C laboratory maintains enhanced sample throughput and testing capabilities for all LRN-C core methods and stands ready to validate and implement additional LRN-C high threat chemical methods. The Medical Countermeasures Unit within the PHPR Branch ensures that NC can receive the CDC’s Strategic Nati
onal Stockpile, process it, and distribute to jurisdictions across NC. All of these functions are supported by the PHEP-funded Public Health Information Network (PHIN) that provides the integrated technology (IT) personnel, software, and hardware support to ensure these functions operate effectively. The PHEP program in North Carolina is further supported by subject matter experts in communicable and noncommunicable disease; fatality management; plans, training, exercise and evaluation; communications and business operations that inform on preparedness and response activities.
This funding opportunity will be used to maintain these successful programs and enhance programs that have been identified with additional needs. Budget Period 1 will be used to develop the multi-year strategic goals. While PHEP serves the entire population, at risk populations receive focused attention as both systems prepare to deliver tailored resources for specific needs. The ultimate goal is to build systems, relationships, and workforces that protect the health and safety of North Carolinians before, during and after public health emergencies and disasters.