The Ohio Department of Health and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health received Pandemic Influenza Public Engagement Grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assist in the development of community containment plans that would be employed during an influenza pandemic. They were two of six states selected to participate in this national CDC Demonstration Project.
Podziba Policy Mediation designed public engagement and stakeholder meetings in conjunction in conjunction with a steering committee of government, academic, and health care partners. Each meeting included a presentation on pandemic influenza, a context-setting scenario, and facilitated group discussions. Susan Podziba facilitated the public and stakeholder meetings and PPM-trained local health care officials facilitated small group discussions.
Community meetings in Ohio focused the closure of schools and businesses, cancellation of lifecycle events, and maintenance of essential social services. Adherents and leaders from at least twelve religions discussed a range of issues, including the need to perform for mass funerals in accordance with varied religious requirements.
Public health officials integrated community and stakeholder recommendations into their state and local community containment plans for pandemic influenza.
By reaching deep into potentially affected communities and traditionally hard-to-reach populations, they obtained information about on-the-ground realities and dynamics that may someday contribute to effective life-saving strategies. For example, the demand for separation of church and state will require government officials to partner with religious leaders if there is a need to suspend faith-based services or events.