Preparing Child Care Programs for Pandemic Influenza

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Preparing Child Care Programs for Pandemic Influenza


The following strategies are useful to enable child care programs for a pandemic or seasonal influenza outbreak.

During a pandemic, a strong connection between child care and public health leaders is critical because recommendations and communication strategies evolve rapidly. Early education and child care programs need to be aware of existing mechanisms for information dissemination and decision-making. Preparing effectively involves the following tasks:
  • Compiling a list of key contacts and their e-mail and phone numbers.
  • Assigning responsibilities for who will call whom in what circumstances.
  • Distinguishing a “telephone tree” for information sharing from an alert system.
Training sessions on influenza can achieve the following objectives:
  • Improve day-to-day preparedness.
  • Identify response plans for active outbreaks or pandemics.
  • Engage local pediatricians, health department representatives, and qualified child care health consultants in child care health and safety.
  • Keep staff informed of ongoing community preparedness efforts.
The handout on Preparing Child Care Programs for Infectious Disease Outbreaks or Pandemic Influenza offers more information.

Steps for Improving Preparedness:
  1. Develop a written emergency/disaster plan that includes a process and timeline for updating this document.
  2. Maintain a list of community contacts and establish a call system with lists of key phone numbers in advance to communicate during an emergency.
  3. Identify “trusted sources” of health information (eg, CDC, health department, child care health consultant, community pediatricians).
  4. Determine who will monitor and report back on key findings.
  5. Develop a process for sharing key information with staff, parents, and children during an emergency.
  6. Prepare handouts for staff and parents in advance.
  7. Discuss the process for ordering supplies (and maintaining inventory) during times of staff absences or when there is an increased need for certain hygiene or cleaning supplies. 
  8. Use seasonal influenza as an opportunity to practice preparedness and response efforts.
  9. Collaborate with community partners on preparedness activities or contingency planning.
  10. Review criteria for and steps involved in facility closure.
  11. Implement steps to support families and employees in the development of personal preparedness plans.

In addition to the steps described above, child care programs should be encouraged to implement these new strategies to enhance preparedness:
  • Provide seasonal influenza immunizations on site at the child care facility.
  • Collaborate with nearby centers on the use of substitutes, mass supply ordering, and/or training.
  • Create a Web site or answering service message to provide updates.
  • Form a team that includes a child care health consultant and/or local public health representative to make decisions during an outbreak or pandemic.
In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) completed a needs assessment of 1500 licensed child care centers. Results show that more can be done to prepare the early education and child care community for a pandemic influenza. Top choices for improving preparedness were participation in training sessions, use of print materials, and access to downloadable or interactive Web-based tools.

Disaster Preparedness Standards
Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards; Guidelines for Early Care and Education Programs, 3rd Edition has the following standards related to influenza and H1N1.

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