month, Children’s announced the creation of a new Center for Biopreparedness
that will plan for biological, chemical or radiation disasters affecting
children and their caregivers. The center was created after several
federal agencies identified Children’s as a national resource for
public health protection.
Center for Biopreparedness will:
- Establish response guidelines for emergency
medical responders, schools, neighborhood health centers,
parents and hospitals.
- Develop training protocols for Emergency
Department physicians and staff.
- Continue to develop syndromic surveillance
and reporting tools to identify significant patterns in
emergency cases and catch potential outbreaks early.
Shannon, MD, MPH, chief of Emergency Medicine, says that
pediatrics is an important component of the nation’s disaster planning.
“As a nation we must be prepared to protect our kids,” he said.
“As pediatricians, it is incumbent upon us to develop the protocols
and practices to do so.”
The new center, drawing on experts from Emergency Medicine,
Informatics, Infectious Diseases and other departments, will determine
best practices for treating children who are exposed to hazardous
materials. In addition to developing plans for hospitals, the center
will address how emergency medical responders, schools, neighborhood
health centers and parents should deal with children affected by
hazardous materials. “Current preparedness systems for children
are inadequate,” said Shannon. “Our goal is to create templates
that can be used in the community, across Massachusetts and across
Caring for children involved in disasters poses unique
challenges, since their reactions to agents may be more severe than
adults’ while the cases are often harder to diagnose. Also, decontamination
requires special considerations such as keeping children warm and
comfortable. Over the past two years, Children’s
has trained about 250 staff in disaster response and decontamination
procedures, with the goal of being prepared to respond to a natural
or man-made disaster 24 hours a day, year-round.
A large-scale disaster would create other special concerns
for the hospital as well, including that the Emergency Department
might have an influx of parents and adult patients in addition to
children. The new center will develop protocols for a variety of
scenarios and identify any special equipment needs.
In addition to its disaster planning, the new center
will continue to develop syndromic surveillance tools, which are
computer programs that can analyze patterns in patient visits, school
absences and other indicators to alert health officials to signs
of bioterrorism or other unusual public health events. Such tools
take their lead from ED
Scope, the Emergency Department’s groundbreaking system created
Mandl, MD, MPH director of Emergency Medicine Research.
“With this system, we may be the first to discover bioterrorism
or another type of hazardous material event by identifying illness
clusters in our children,” said Shannon.
The Center for Biopreparedness was created through a
$700,000 contract with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
The National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the
Sloan Foundation and other sources will contribute to funding of
the center’s projects.-CM
Representatives of the state and Children’s briefed the press July
1 on the new Center for Biopreparedness. L-R: Steve Morash of the
Boston Emergency Management Agency, Anita Barry, MD, MPH, director
of Communicable Disease Control at the Boston Public Health Commission,
James Mandell, MD, president and CEO,
Ken Mandl, MD, MPH, director of Emergency
Medicine Research. Michael Shannon, MD, MPH,
chief of Emergency Medicine, Fran Damian, MS,
RN, director of Patient Services in Emergency Services, and
State Representative Martin Walsh.