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Local Emergency Preparedness Efforts Focus on Community-Based Organizations

Public Health Emergency is the Focus of Scenario-Based Exercise- Hurricane

Katrina Community Responder Thomas Ray to Deliver Opening Keynote on

Mobilizing Faith-Based and Other Community-Based Organizations

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health's "Preparing Our Communities for Emergencies" workshop for community-based organizations took place today at the Japanese American National Museum in downtown Los Angeles. The scenario-based exercise was designed to instruct participants on their organization's role and responsibilities during an emergency situation and how they would assist community members.

Hurricane Katrina community responder, Thomas Ray delivered the keynote address detailing his role during the hurricane aftermath. As an ordained minister and a licensed construction contractor, he is recognized for his efforts in helping turn an abandoned Kmart shopping center into a functioning overflow hospital for Katrina evacuees.

"Public health is a priority before, during and following a major disaster," said Jonathan Fielding, MD, MPH, Public Health Director and County Health Officer. "Our goal is to bring community based organizations together for better coordination. We all can make a difference even before an emergency hits home by encouraging preparedness and prevention partnerships. Our goal and hope, is that these partnerships will help LA County to better respond to our citizens in the event of a major emergency."

One of the potential health emergencies discussed at the workshop is the threat of a pandemic flu.

A pandemic flu has occurred three times in the last century (1918, 1957 and 1968) and can take place in any flu season. Although it is difficult to predict when the next pandemic will occur or how severe it will be, public education and outreach is critical to prevention efforts. Health experts predict an infection rate of 25 to 50 percent of the U.S. population, depending on the severity of the virus strain. Seasonal influenza, affects 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population, should still be treated with the same precautions, including good hand washing and annual vaccination.

Public Health's ongoing Clean Hands public education and outreach campaign illustrates just how easy it is to transmit germs while going about a daily routine. These same precautions can reduce the risk of food borne illness. The campaign shows how easy it is to prevent catching the flu or other germs simply by washing or sanitizing your hands. Public service announcements (PSAs) in multiple languages for print, television, and radio began running again in January.

The Clean Hands campaign is available in 12 different languages and is placed in 13 markets, including Latino, Asian, Russian, Armenian, Arabic, African American, GLBT, and people with disabilities. Besides outreach to individuals and families, the campaign also focuses on reaching businesses, schools, faith-based and other community-based organizations.

The Clean Hands public education and outreach campaign runs through April 2008, and is funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more information, or to download brochures, please visit the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health's Web site at:

The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 4,000 employees and an annual budget exceeding $750 million.

SOURCE Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
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