november 12, 2003

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OSU grant boosts rural health care response to bioterrorism threats

Training slated to begin in January 2004 will give front line health care workers in rural Oklahoma continuing education in bioterrorism and disaster response. A $1.5 million training grant to Oklahoma Area Health Education Center (OKAHEC) at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences funds the new training in 22 community sites.

Training is aimed at physicians, nurses, allied health workers, mental health professionals, paramedical workers, emergency management technicians and pharmacists, along with veterinarians, morticians and administrators. It examines various bioterrorism scenarios such as diseases, anthrax, explosions, or radiation exposure, addressing both physical and mental health issues during the first few hours after the event, according to Richard Perry, M.A., the grant’s principal investigator.

The Oklahoma Statewide Bioterrorist Continuing Education Program grant is from the Health Resource Services Administration of the Department of Health and Human Service. It funds continuing education for 2,250 health professionals in rural Oklahoma who provide medical care after terrorism or a major public health disaster.

Training goals include recognizing indications of a terrorist event or public health emergency, meeting immediate acute care needs, alerting the public health system and ensuring a coordinated, multidisciplinary response.

“We focus on medical response during the four to six hours before back-up can reach a rural area. This looks at what should be done immediately,” said Perry.

The grant supports bioterrorism training and curriculum development among collaborative partners including OKAHEC, Oklahoma State Department of Health Bioterrorism Preparedness Division, Oklahoma Office of Rural Health, Oklahoma Rural Health Policy and Research Center, OSU Educational Television Services, OSU Educational Testing Services, OSU-Oklahoma City, OSU Telemedicine Center, private consultants and selected rural hospitals.

Why rural Oklahoma?

“Oklahoma already has experienced terrorism. We have severe natural disasters that kill and injure people, and we have a number of military bases. Our rural communities need to be prepared, ” Perry said.

Course formats include three 16-week semesters or three fast track, intensive training sessions. Methods of training include workshops, conferences, distance learning through interactive video-conferencing, self-study modules and community-based operational exercises. Participants also can choose a combination of the two formats. Primary training facilities are local rural hospitals or health departments.

Perry said the grant has an added benefit of trying out a new partnership of various agencies. “We are learning a lot about how to work together. We have started talking about how this partnership could and should be expanded.” He said the continuing education nature of the project opens the door to looking at other telemedicine or distance learning opportunities.

Bioterrorist Continuing Education Program target counties and hub communities include: Beckham - Elk City, Bryan - Duncan, Caddo - Anadarko, Carter - Ardmore, Cherokee - Tahlequah, Comanche - Lawton, Creek - Bristow, Custer - Weatherford, Garfield - Enid, Garvin - Duncan, Kay - Ponca City, Leflore - Talihina, McCurtain - Idabel, Mayes - Pryor, Okmulgee - Okmulgee, Payne - Stillwater, Pittsburg - McAlester, Pontotoc - Ada, Seminole - Seminole, Texas- Guymon, Washington - Bartlesville, and Woodward - Woodward.

When the series of training ends, a live mock bioterrorist event will be staged to reinforce and test skills.

Contact: Karen Wicker, 1-918-561-8215