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Story from the Field

Name of Health Department/Agency: Boston Public Health Commission
State: MA
Date Added: 01/26/2010
Themes: Community Mitigation
Issue Summary: Boston's Integrated Plan strengthened civic engagement for H1N1 response.
Description of Issue(s):

As Boston geared up to respond to the expected second wave of H1N1 flu, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, and the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) took the lead in developing a city-wide integrated response plan that was designed to help coordinate the many elements of the upcoming fall/winter flu season. Boston was among the hardest hit cities during the initial wave of H1N1 and public health officials knew they had to plan for a range of possible scenarios and levels of outbreak severity.

Actions taken to address the issue(s): The basic assumption of Boston's plan was that a pandemic response demanded a community response, not just a public health response. City health officials developed a plan that built structure around that assumption by providing a framework of response activities for ten community sectors. Those sectors included; businesses, childcare, school and after school programs, colleges and universities, community organizations, faith-based organizations, government agencies, healthcare professionals and organizations, parents and caregivers, residential care organizations and labor unions. The plan was communicated through sector-specific grids to provide flu prevention and mitigation guidance. The plan also was organized by severity level (1 mild, 2 moderate, 3 severe), to help sector partners modulate their response activities accordingly. A system of Flu Alerts was also instituted, which allowed for on-going communication between public health and key response partners, including the public. The BPHC organized the first H1N1 Flu Summit in Massachusetts in August 2009, to brief sector partners about the plan and to solicit feedback. The Summit, held at Harvard Medical School, was hosted by Mayor Menino, and drew hundreds of clinicians, business, civic and community leaders.
Outcomes that resulted from actions taken: The BPHC's early push to involve many community sectors contributed to a well-coordinated response that has improved city's response during the fall wave of the pandemic.

Boston's Flu Summit drew more than 400 participants and resulted in refinements and strengthening of the BPHC integrated plan. The Summit allowed the BPHC to clearly communicate its commitment and expectations for the flu response, and helped solidify partnerships prior to the second wave of illness.

A sample of Boston's sector-specific guidance grid can be found in NACCHO's H1N1 toolkit at:

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