In response to an outbreak of disease of public health importance, a city, county, or state health department can request field epidemiologic assistance from the next higher level public health agency. In the United States, the highest level public health agency is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To ensure smooth communications, planning, and execution of an epidemiologic field investigation, as well as to maintain good relationships from the initiation of the investigation to the final report, several operational aspects should be addressed. Key elements of operationalizing an epidemiologic field investigation include the following: 1) initial request and communications between inviters and invitees and a formal invitation for assistance from an authorized official; 2) clarification of the investigation’s main objectives and roles and responsibilities of those involved; 3) preparation of the field team for departure; 4) initial in-person meeting of the field team with local health officials and collaborators to review and update the situation, review local resources and primary points of contact, and identify a local public information officer; 5) management of field team activities with lists of necessary tasks for team members and frequent communications within the team, between team leader and senior supervisor, and between team and local officials; 6) in-person debriefing meeting with preliminary findings and recommendations by field team before departure; and 7) drafting of the final report with full findings and recommendations. Field investigations will proceed more smoothly and productively if both inviters and invitees adequately address key operational aspects before, during, and after the investigation.
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