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Changes in public health preparedness services provided to local health departments by regional offices in North Carolina: a comparison of two cross-sectional studies

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    BMC Res Notes
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    Background In 2011, seven decentralized Public Health Regional Surveillance Teams (PHRSTs) were restructured into four centralized Public Health Preparedness and Response (PHP&R) regional offices to realign preparedness priorities and essential services with appropriate infrastructure; field-based staff was reduced, saving approximately $1 million. The objective of this study was to understand the impact that restructuring had on services provided to local health departments (LHDs) throughout North Carolina. Methods A survey to document services that regional offices provide to LHDs in North Carolina was administered by the North Carolina Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center in 2013. The results were compared to a similar survey from 2009, which identified services provided by regional teams prior to restructuring. Results Of 69 types of assistance, 14 (20%) were received by 50% or more LHDs in 2012. Compared to 2009, there was a significant decrease in the proportion of LHDs receiving 67% (n = 47) of services. The size of the region served by regional offices was shown to inversely impact the proportion of LHDs receiving services for 25% of services. There was a slight significant decline in perceived quality of the services provided by regional teams in 2012 as comparison to 2009. Conclusions Following a system-wide review of preparedness in North Carolina, the state’s regional teams were reorganized to refine their focus to planning, exercises, and training. Some services, most notably under the functions of epidemiology and surveillance and public health event response, are now provided by other state offices. However, the study results indicate that several services that are still under the domain of the regional offices were received by fewer LHDs in 2012 than 2009. This decrease may be due to the larger number of counties now served by the four regional offices.
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