Press Release: Public Health Modernization Funds Support Infectious Disease Prevention, Response Work

Oregon counties, tribes and community partners are using a 2019 legislative investment to continue modernizing the state’s public health system, including expanding interventions to prevent and respond to emerging disease threats.

The Legislature’s 2019 allocation for public health modernization, the initiative launched seven years ago to upgrade the state’s governmental public health system, provides an investment of $15.6 million for the 2019-2021 biennium.

"A key to building a modern public health system in Oregon is ensuring every person in Oregon -- regardless of income, race, ethnicity or geographic location -- has access to essential public health services," said Lillian Shirley, public health director at the Oregon Health Authority. "A modern public health system provides core public health functions and maintains the flexibility needed to focus on new health challenges, such as emerging infectious diseases, climate change, threats from human-caused and natural disasters, and chronic diseases."

She adds, "We’re seeing the importance of a modern public health infrastructure in our preparations for and responses to recent emerging disease crises, such as those created by the outbreaks of vaping-associated lung injuries and novel coronavirus."

The bulk of the funding, about $10.3 million, is being distributed to local public health authorities -- county public health departments -- to address local priorities for controlling communicable diseases. The funds also continue support for seven regional partnerships, covering 32 of 36 counties, and allow expansion of successful approaches to communicable disease control efforts started in 2017. The approaches demonstrate new models of public health programs considered among the foundation of essential services for every community to protect and promote health.

Examples include deployment of regional teams to respond to outbreaks; improving immunizations among 2-year-olds and adolescents; providing training and technical assistance to the health care community on controlling sexually transmitted infections; sharing information about public health threats with the health care provider community; using data analytics to improve infectious disease data access, analysis and sharing; and building relationships with populations experiencing a disproportionate burden of communicable disease and poor health outcomes.

The Central Oregon Public Health Partnership, comprising Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties, used funding from the Legislature’s 2017-2019 biennial investment to form a Central Oregon Outbreak Prevention, Surveillance and Response Team, and for infectious disease prevention interventions among older adults in institutional settings and young children in child care centers with high immunization exemption rates. That work will continue with the most recent investment, says Heather Kaisner, public health manager with Deschutes County Public Health.

"It’s greatly increased our capacity and expertise to prevent and quickly respond to communicable disease threats in our region," Kaisner said. "We’re excited to expand our infection prevention work into other facilities, such as homeless shelters and other places that serve vulnerable populations. We’re also continuing to enhance our communication efforts to proactively share critical health information with health care providers, and to the public so people can take steps to protect themselves."

The funded regional partnerships, covering 32 of 36 counties, are as follows:

  • Central Oregon Public Health Partnership (Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties; Central Oregon Health Council), $466,637.
  • Coast-to-Valley Modernization Partnership (Lane, Benton, Lincoln and Linn counties; Linn-Benton Health Equity Alliance), $444,137.
  • Eastern Oregon Modernization Collaborative (North Central Public Health District, Baker, Grant, Harney, Hood River, Lake, Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, Union and Wheeler counties, and Eastern Oregon CCO), $490,637.
  • Marion and Polk County Regional Partnership (Marion and Polk counties; Willamette Valley Community Health CCO), $354,137.
  • Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington and Yamhill counties; and Oregon Health Equity Alliance, $435,137.
  • Oregon Coast Partnership (Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook counties; Columbia Pacific CCO), $376,637.
  • Southwest Regional Partnership (Douglas, Coos and Curry counties; Advanced Health CCO; Umpqua Health Alliance CCO; Coquille Indian Tribe; Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians, $399,137.

The full list of the partnerships and their projects can be found on the Oregon Public Health Modernization webpage.

About $1.2 million of the legislative investment will go to seven federally recognized tribes, the Urban Indian Health Program and the Northwest Portland Indian Health Board. They will use the funds to identify opportunities for modernizing their services, and strengthen partnerships with local public health authorities and OHA to ensure everyone in tribal communities has access to public health protections.

Finally, OHA will use about $4 million of the Legislature’s allocation to improve data systems so it can quickly identify and respond to acute and communicable disease outbreaks, and improve how population health data by race and ethnicity -- through surveys -- are collected and reported. It also will create permanent positions that will work on improving health equity, and tracking and responding to communicable disease and environmental health threats. And it will assess the effectiveness of these efforts through an annual evaluation and accountability metrics.

For more information, visit the Oregon Public Health Modernization webpage.

Below are audio clips from:

  • Cara Biddlecom, MPH, director of policy and partnerships, OHA Public Health Division.

Cara Biddlecom clip 1:

Cara Biddlecom clip 2:

Cara Biddlecom clip 3:

  • Heather Kaisner, MS, public health manager, Deschutes County Health Services.

Heather Kaisner clip:

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