PPP72: Public Health Operational Competence – This is the Way

To say there are many lessons learned from the past year’s global pandemic response, and America’s in particular, is an understatement. To also think we could not have prepared or known this was going to happen however, is simply not true. As I shared in ‘PPP15: Pandemic Planning and Response Is Not New – A Review of the 15 PHEP Capabilities’ and ‘PPP11: A Brief History of Public Health Emergency Preparedness in America’, pandemic influenza planning and the notion that a major outbreak could be headed for the world is well documented and in the history of our species.

Where is the gap? Administrative processes were deemed more important than developing individual, district, agency and national level competency and credentialing. Instead of documents with links to lengthy, often times un-actionable plans, we should have collectively been training our Public Health (and Healthcare) staffs in the core principals of all-hazards incident management. These skills bring with them the ability to apply those “Foundational 5” key things I speak of, whether for a 10 person or 10,000 person outbreak. With these principles come credentialing. These credentials aren’t given unless the individual can show another experienced and credentialed person that they can perform the task.

So how can we get better? In ‘PPP72: Public Health Operational Competence – This is the Way’ I’ll share the “Foundational 5” things I know work from my over 5 years as a Local, Regional and State Public Health Preparedness Coordinator and rolling lessons learned as I witnessed the Nation’s response and monitored the ground truth of the pandemic.

LISTEN HERE – PPP72: Public Health Operational Competence – This is the Way

Foundational 5 for Public health Operational Competence:

Leader’s Intent: To build and maintain a Public Health operational readiness model at the Local, State and National levels to be ready to address any disease of Public Health threat

S.M.A.R.T. Objectives:

  • Establish an annual training and exercise plan following HSEEP guidelines at the Local, State and Federal levels of Public Health
  • Create a cadre of experienced Public Health evaluators to provide objective feedback to Local, State and Federal Public Health personnel
  • Public Health personnel across the United States that are charged with planning for and responding to diseases of Public Health threat must obtain an IMT credential within their first 1-2 years in their position
  • Conduct annual national level Full Scale Exercise that incorporates Local, State and Federal Public Health and Healthcare personnel
  • Create Task Forces to address the key underlying conditions that made the impact of COVID-19 worse for many that died
  • Improve Public Health technology infrastructure and create interconnectivity between the Local, State and Federal levels


  • Coordination must happen between Local (ICS/POD -> EOC), Regional/State (MAC) and National level agency EOCS (HHS/CDC, FEMA, etc.)
  • Propose all Public Health all under the Local Health District working under the State umbrella supported by Federal funding
  • Proposed any Long Term Care Facilities (LTCF) receive Federal funding through more strict planning and disease management guidelines and fall under a Federal and State program to balance preparedness between the “haves and have nots”


  • Optimize and provide better oversight to the billions of dollars spent on Public Health emergency preparedness
  • Ensure the Private Sector is involved and ask more of them to help support planning and exercises
  • Move from lengthy, administratively cumbersome emergency operations plans (EOPs) to more actionable and easy to follow standard operating procedures (SOPs)
  • Leverage Project Management techniques and project management systems (PMS) to better organize and facilitate preparedness programs
  • Conduct nationally led and funded Community Health Assessments


  • Leverage the many communication platforms to connect Local, State and Federal PPE and vaccine distribution and dispensing
  • Make messaging real to address the unhealthy aspects of America that contribute to key morbidities such as obesity, smoking and high blood pressure

There is so much more to say. The key is we have to accept we screwed some things up. That we didn’t all prepare like we should have. To take ownership of this and then do our best to make it right. We cannot again let politics over the next years take center stage. Instead, we must have a resolute focus on the readiness and safety of our front line people, our most vulnerable and prepare the next generation to more readily face the invisible monster that is disease.

Public Health is hard, but it’s not impossible. We do have plans for this. We should know how to scale. We must prepare and do better next time.

Please stay safe, wash your hands and Godspeed,


Kevin Pannell, PMP | Creator & Host, ‘People, Process, Progress’ | Connect and subscribe at https://linktr.ee/peopleprocessprogress

#publichealth #preparedness #response #allhazards #pandemicflu #covid19 #lessonslearned #incidentcommandsystem #incidentmanagement #foundational5 #peopleprocessprogress

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