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July 15, 2009

Preparing for H1N1 Flu and Other Public Health Emergencies
2009 Illinois Public Health Emergency Preparedness Summit – “Strengthening Illinois Through Community Engagement”

OAK BROOK – The on-going H1N1 flu pandemic highlights the importance of being prepared for any emergency, including a public health emergency.  The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Illinois Public Health Association (IPHA) have joined forces to co-sponsor the 2009 Illinois Public Health Emergency Preparedness Summit, “Strengthening Illinois Through Community Engagement.”  The summit is designed to give participants the opportunity to share ideas and learn how to best prepare for public health emergencies, natural disasters, environmental health accidents, terrorist attacks or disease outbreaks.

“Public health emergency preparedness is one of the state’s top priorities and our years of preparing for a pandemic influenza has helped us reduce the impacts of the novel H1N1 influenza virus in Illinois,” said Dr. Damon T. Arnold, Illinois Department of Public Health Director.  “It is imperative we join together as a unified community to prepare our state in the event of a natural disaster or public health threat.  This annual summit is an opportunity for public health professionals involved in emergency preparedness, planning and response to work together to better protect the health and safety of the citizens of Illinois.”

The multidisciplinary program benefits public health, environmental health, nursing, communicable disease, laboratory, food protection, immunization, hospital, allied health and other emergency response professionals.  A variety of workshops, exercises and roundtable discussions will take place during the summit and cover such topics as preparing for the upcoming fall flu season, faith-based community preparedness efforts, foodborne illness response strategies, hazardous substances, emergency shelter assessment, school preparedness activities and improving mental health responses during disasters.

“The emergency preparedness summit provides IPHA members with an opportunity to partner with other state and local agencies to strengthen the emergency preparedness and response system in Illinois,” said Illinois Public Health Association Executive Director James Nelson.  “The summit has become a key educational opportunity for our membership, public health professional and emergency response personnel and I am pleased that this year we are also gaining national attention and participation via satellite and webcast offerings.”

This year’s keynote speakers and topics include:

• Professor Roman Prymula, M.D., Ph.D. - Pre-conference session.  Serving in the Czech Republic Army, Dr. Prymula currently acts as the dean of faculty of Military Health Sciences in Hradec Kralove, chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Professor of Hygiene, Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology.  Dr. Prymula is involved in numerous research activities in development of new vaccines for both children and adults including clinical trials with new vaccines like HPV, hepatitis A-typhoid, pneumococcus and DTap.   

• Captain Alfred C. “Al” Haynes – Teamwork in Crisis – The Story of Flight 232.  Captain Al Haynes was the pilot of United Airlines flight 232 on July 19, 1989.  After two engines failed, Haynes was able to land the flight in which 184 survived.

• Amanda Ripley – Disaster Mythology – What Really Happens at the Worst of Times.  In 2005 Ripley covered hurricanes Katrina and Rita from New Orleans helping TIME win two national magazine awards.  She is also the author of the popular book, “The Unthinkable:  Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why.”

• Richard Sheirer – Plan, Prepare, Practice.  Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani appointed Sheirer Director of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) in February 2000.  After losing the OEM offices in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, Sheirer directed the OEM staff and rebuilt an Emergency Operations Center and addressed the needs of families of uniformed and civilian victims, including coordinating efforts with New York Commission for the United Nations, Consular Corps and Protocol to address the unique needs of foreign citizens and their families affected by the attacks.

New to the summit this year is an awards reception and book singing event.  Service awards will be presented to faith-based community organizations for their work in preparedness and response and for outstanding community service.  Following the awards ceremony, the event will feature several well-known public health and preparedness authors.

For more information on the summit and webcast information, log onto www.ipha.com and log onto www.idph.state.il.us for the latest on public health preparedness in Illinois.


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