The results of a new survey suggests that approximately 50% of the public health workforce, would stay at home in the event of a bird flu pandemic. A majority of these public health workers would be clerical and technical support staff.
More than 308 public health workers in Maryland were surveyed, out of which nearly 46.2% expressed that they would not report for work during a pandemic. Approximately 66% of those surveyed considered that it was risky to report for work during a pandemic.
Surprisingly, less than 1/3rd of the study participants believed they would play an important role in the health agency, in the event of a local bird flu outbreak.
This infact was found to play a crucial role in determining an employee's willingness to work. Those who perceived their work to be vital, more specifically doctors, nurses and other health professionals were more likely to work during a pandemic. Others who perceived their work to be less important such as clerical and support staff were less likely to work during a pandemic.
The survey has been conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. The results of this study highlight the need for more effective bird flu preparedness programs, targeted at alleviating bird flu fear.
Employees further need to be aware of what would be expected of them, not ignoring concerns about safety of themselves and their families. The results of this important study have been published in the online version of BMC Public Health. The authors have warned that the results might not be applicable to other regions.
'The idea that so many public health workers may not show up for work is a little unsettling. You can't blame the public health workforce. These preparedness issues push public health workers almost into the category of first responders,' said Omer, one of the researcher involved in the study. He further pointed out to the active role played by these workers during anthrax threats and Hurricane Katrina.