248095 Importance of Standardizing Local Public Health Department Web Sites for Improving Communications to the Public during Disasters and Emergencies

Monday, October 31, 2011

L. Fleming Fallon Jr., MD, DrPH , Department of Public Health/Allied Health, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH
Hans Schmalzried, PhD , Department of Public Health, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH
This paper focuses on the presence and content of Web sites operated by local health departments (LHDs) as they pertain to information relative to emergency preparedness. Of the 2,790 LHDs in the United States, Internet homepages were located for 1,986. We reviewed each homepage to document the presence of nine elements deemed to be critical for effective communications during emergency or disaster situations. LHD Web site homepages had a mean of 4.1 ( 1.4) elements. Among the findings, this review revealed that four out of five (80.5%) of the LHDs included the agency phone number, half (49.4%) provided links to emergency information, and about one in five (19.6%) listed an agency email address. Fewer than one in twenty (4.3%) of the LHD homepages reviewed allowed visitors to sign up for automatic alerts or notifications. Members of the public must be able to communicate with LHDs during an emergency. LHD Web sites are logical sources for information about a local public health emergency or disaster. Web site users say they go online during public health emergencies because they can get information at times convenient to them, and because information is more detailed and current.

Learning Areas:
Communication and informatics
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines

Learning Objectives:
Participants will be able to develop standardized local health department homepages that can help the public to navigate sites more easily and rapidly and result in more effective emergency and disaster response efforts.

Keywords: Emergency, Communication

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I am the Co-Director of an MPH prgram and a professor who teaches and does public health research.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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