Achieving Public Health Operational Competence

Public Health Operational Competence

There are many lessons learned from the past year’s global pandemic response is an understatement. One of these lessons learned should be to make sure we’ve developed Public Health operational competence across America and the world. As I shared in previous episodes, pandemic influenza planning and disease outbreaks are well documented in the history of our species.
LISTEN HERE – PPP72: Public Health Operational Competence – This is the Way

Identifying Gaps

  • Administrative processes over developing operational competency and credentialing.
  • Lack of training for our Public Health (and Healthcare) staffs in the core principals of all-hazards incident management.

In this episode I 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.

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:

  • Provide an annual training and exercise plan at the Local, State and Federal levels of Public Health
  • Create a cadre of operationally experienced Public Health evaluators
  • Require Public Health personnel across the United States to obtain an IMT credentials
  • Conduct annual national level Full Scale Exercises
  • Create Task Forces to address the key underlying conditions
  • Improve Public Health technology infrastructure and create interconnectivity


  • Coordination must happen between Local (ICS/POD -> EOC), Regional/State (MAC) and National level agency EOCS (HHS/CDC, FEMA, etc.)
  • Propose all Public Health fall under the Local Health District under the State umbrella supported by Federal funding
  • Proposed any Long Term Care Facilities (LTCF) of all sizes receive Federal funding


  • Optimize and provide better oversight to the billions of dollars spent on Public Health emergency preparedness
  • Insist on Private Sector involvement and tie it to funding
  • 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
  • Proactive messaging about obesity, smoking and high blood pressure

Closing Thoughts:

The key is we have to accept we screwed some things up. That we didn’t all prepare like we should have. We cannot again let politics over the next years take center stage. We must have a resolute focus on the readiness and safety of our front line people. People are our most valuable asset. We must prepare the next generation to more ready to face the next disease outbreak. We do better next time.

Stay safe, wash your hands and Godspeed,


Kevin Pannell, PMP, Creator & Host, ‘People, Process, Progress’ podcast
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