Berkeley - A new $2.8 million federal grant will help University of California, Berkeley, researchers battle bioterrorism, infectious disease outbreaks and other emergent public health threats through a new Center for Infectious Disease Preparedness.
The three-year grant, announced today (Thursday, Sept. 26), establishes UC Berkeley's School of Public Health as the site of one of four new academic centers for public health preparedness. The academic centers are funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with the Association of Schools of Public Health.
UC Berkeley and the other three new centers - at the University of Michigan, University of Oklahoma and University of South Carolina - will join 15 others funded last February as part of the $2.9 billion bioterrorism initiative launched by President George W. Bush earlier this year.
"The weaknesses of the nation's public health infrastructure were made clear in last year's anthrax attacks," said Dr. Arthur Reingold, professor and head of epidemiology at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health and principal investigator of the grant. "We learned that we need to improve coordination and communication throughout the public health system, from the local to the national level. These centers for public health preparedness are a major step forward in reaching that goal."
Through the national network of academic centers, public health and law enforcement workers will receive training in how to respond in the event of a bioterrorist incident or naturally occurring infectious disease outbreak. Each center will provide frontline health and safety workers with training in epidemiology, surveillance, and outbreak detection and response. Programs will also cover information technology and worker safety.
Researchers at UC Berkeley will work closely with state and local health officials in California and Nevada, as well as with the California Highway Patrol, to identify high-priority training needs. They will also coordinate their efforts with the other academic centers for public health preparedness around the country.
A key goal of the UC Berkeley center will be to improve communications with journalists who report on health and medical stories.
"It is crucial to involve the media in this effort because they will be helping us communicate to the wider public," said Linda Neuhauser, clinical professor of epidemiology at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health and a faculty researcher at the center. "It is important for us to work effectively with journalists to help ensure that the quality of scientific reporting is high."
The researchers will collaborate with UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism in designing an effective training program targeting journalists, including those in local and regional news organizations.
"This is a primary example of the school's commitment to moving the knowledge base from publication of research to public action," said Stephen Shortell, professor and dean of the School of Public Health. "It extends the school's ties both within and outside the campus."
In addition to Reingold and Neuhauser, there are eight other UC Berkeley researchers involved in the center. Researchers from the San Francisco and Alameda county health departments, the Public Health Institute in Berkeley, Vanderbilt University and UCSF will also contribute to the training efforts at the UC Berkeley center.
The other 15 academic centers for public health preparedness are at Columbia University, Emory University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, St. Louis University, University of Illinois at Chicago, State University of New York at Albany, Tulane University, UCLA, University of Iowa, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Minnesota, University of Pittsburgh, University of South Florida and University of Washington.