Public health officials face ongoing challenges in identifying, preparing for, and managing outbreaks of diseases and other illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released a newly developed Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) toolkit to help epidemiologists and other public health professionals collect pertinent health information during a large-scale emergency or natural disaster. During a disaster, existing infrastructure is compromised and communication and transportation systems may be inoper¬able. Finding a method to collect health data to detect and prevent outbreaks and to minimize health risks within the community becomes an important task for public health professionals.
The CDC is encouraging local public health agencies to adopt the CASPER protocol to better prepare for and respond to future emergencies by increasing their capa¬bility to quickly establish surveillance systems during disasters. An innovative appli¬cation of this protocol is being implemented by the City of Nashua, New Hampshire's Division of Public Health & Community Services. The Division is using the protocol to develop field procedures to gather community health information for a local health assessment. By utilizing this tool during non-emergencies, local health depart¬ments can practice using the toolkit, train volunteers and staff to use the toolkit and increase their ability to use this method to respond more efficiently during a disaster.