On Friday, March 28, 2014 personnel from the Kentucky Department of Public Health (KDPH) provided Kentucky Public Health Assistance and Support Team (K-PHAST) training to students from the University of Kentucky College of Public Health and Eastern Kentucky University’s College of Nursing and College of Justice and Safety. K-PHAST is a team of volunteers trained to respond to Public Health emergencies and assist with special projects at the state and local levels.
In 2012, KDPH responded to many public health events such as: tornadoes in central and eastern Kentucky; a national salmonella outbreak from contaminated cantaloupes; a toxic chemical spill from a train derailment; a multi-state fungal meningitis outbreak; and pertussis and tuberculosis case assessments. These events highlighted the KDPH’s need for trained individuals during such events to help prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from the adverse health effects of public health emergencies and disasters.
The K-PHAST training taught students how public health officials respond to emergencies, and what roles and responsibilities they may assume during emergency events, so they are adequately equipped to assist the KDPH. Students learned about the FEMA Incident Command System (ICS) structure, survey design, HIPAA, and basic applied epidemiology. After completing K-PHAST training, students are ready to be deployed to support state and local responses to public health emergencies.
“We never want public health emergencies to occur, and certainly not to the degree they did in 2012,” said Wayne Sanderson, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health. “But through this partnership between the KDPH and students in our universities’ public health programs, we now have an eager, dedicated group of young professionals who stand ready to respond.”