HSPH’s Center for Public Health Preparedness receives $8.6 million CDC grant to measure emergency systems capabilities and performance

For immediate release: Monday, November 24, 2008  

Boston, MA – Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) are leading a new, multi-institution partnership aimed at improving the way that public health systems respond in times of crisis. Collaborators include Georgetown University, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University, and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

The effort — housed at HSPH and funded by a recent five-year $8.6 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — marks a new approach to emergency preparedness efforts. An Advisory Committee will be comprised of 20 national experts and will provide guidance and support in the research and design of public health preparedness metrics — concrete measurements of capabilities and effectiveness.

In the past, public health emergency preparedness has mainly focused on training and workforce development, according to Principal Investigator Howard Koh, MD, MPH, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health and Director of the Center for Public Health Preparedness at HSPH.

To date, the advancement of the science and practice of public health emergency preparedness has been severely hindered by the lack of appropriate criteria and metrics.  Despite the national investment of billions of dollars in preparedness training since 9/11, the U.S. lacks the ability to objectively assess capabilities and performance.

The project, “Linking Assessment and Measurement to Performance on Public Health Emergency Preparedness Systems” (LAMPS), will conduct research to evaluate the structure, capabilities, and effectiveness of public health systems for emergency preparedness and response activities.

With the new CDC grant, the researchers expect to be able to conduct comprehensive research to evaluate whether these past efforts have been effective and learn how to improve the level of preparedness.  Specifically, the collaborators are focusing on four core areas of public health emergency preparedness:

  • Defining the criteria needed to measure the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical interventions for pandemic flu.
  • Developing valid and reliable measures of public health emergency communication capabilities, especially with vulnerable groups in the community.
  • Determining how best to use drills and exercises to measure response capabilities.
  • Applying the systems improvement approaches used in health care to public health emergency preparedness.

Said Dr. Koh: “We hope that our new national research center will not only help shape the emerging science of performance measurement in emergency preparedness, but also strengthen protection for the public against health threats during these volatile times.”

“We’re taking a step back and asking ourselves basic questions about how to measure public health emergency preparedness,” said Co-Principal Investigator Michael Stoto, PhD, Professor of Health Systems Administration and Population Health at Georgetown University Medical Center’s School of Nursing & Health Studies.  “Without valid measures, it is difficult to demonstrate the value of society’s investments in preparedness or to achieve continuous improvement.”

Since 2000 when the CDC funded and established the Centers of Public Health Preparedness, it has been working with schools of public health to strengthen preparedness for terrorism and other emergencies by linking academic expertise to state and local health agency needs, especially around the development, delivery, and evaluation of preparedness education. The establishment of the new research centers is mandated by the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act of 2006, which calls for research to improve federal, state, local, and tribal public health preparedness and response systems.


For more information contact:
Robin Herman
HSPH Office of Communications

(617) 432-4388


Harvard School of Public Health ( https://www.hsph.harvard.edu ) is dedicated to advancing the public’s health through learning, discovery, and communication. More than 400 faculty members are engaged in teaching and training the 1,000-plus student body in a broad spectrum of disciplines crucial to the health and well being of individuals and populations around the world. Programs and projects range from the molecular biology of AIDS vaccines to the epidemiology of cancer; from risk analysis to violence prevention; from maternal and children’s health to quality of care measurement; from health care management to international health and human rights. For more information on the school visit: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu