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Utilizing Interactive Technology to Teach Our Children about Public Health

Summary: 
With more than 20 years of expertise, Master Sgt. Darlene Foot, U.S. Air Force (retired) now brings her communications and public affairs skills to Cobb & Douglas Public Health (District 3-1), developing and launching the district’s strategic communications objectives.

Since the nation’s shift in focus to safety and emergency preparedness, Cobb & Douglas Public Health (CDPH) Center for Emergency Preparedness and Response (ER&R) took ownership of making sure all citizens, even the youngest ones, are aware and prepared for emergencies.  Under the leadership of Emergency Preparedness and Response Director Pam Blackwell, we targeted our most impressionable residents-- the children.  This was no small task by any stretch of the imagination, but we knew that our team was ready, willing, and capable.  We wanted to make sure that our children understood how to prepare, respond, and protect themselves in any situation.

What did we do?  Emergency Preparedness and Response Trainer and Development Specialist, Kelly Mullins and I developed a concept to utilize the CDPH building at the Cobb Safety Village to communicate Strategic National Stockpile/Emergency Preparedness and Response messages to elementary students, through the use of the state-of-the-art, interactive modules.  We requested and received grant funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to begin work.  Our objective was to create a fun and educational experience that delivered a very serious topic to children in a way that they would not scare them, but rather prepare them on their level. 

What was the result?  We developed six interactive training modules housed in the CDPH building at the Cobb County Safety Village that consist of highly interactive, state-of-the-art technology.  It leads children through hands-on activities that include proper hand washing techniques, tips on preparing for emergencies, fighting flu viruses, destroying anthrax by “splatting” Annie Anthrax on the walls and floors, and dancing to the Kidz Shuffle Bop to emphasize the importance of physical activity. 

 We are incredibly proud of the fact that over 20,000 Cobb County and Marietta City Schools 2nd, and 4th graders will not only be educated but truly experience public health since Safety Village training is now part of their required curriculum. We are especially excited because this is yet another way to further educate our community.  Even though most of these children were not even born during the 9-11 attacks, they will still understand, in an age-appropriate way, how to be safe, protect themselves, and prepare for emergencies. They will also be able to share their new knowledge with their families and friends, which will further spread the message.

The strong partnerships that exist within our community were instrumental to the success of this project.  Public Health involvement in the project was championed by Lisa Crossman, Director, Clinical and Prevention Services, CDPH and Cobb Safety Village Foundation Executive Board Member.  The CDPH building itself was funded by the local CDPH Board of Directors through discretionary dollars, and designed by a local architect who donated his services. Though the initial system consists of six modules that can be used independently or as a group, it also has the capability to include additional modules as needed that encompass other public health topics.

We believe that this 11-minute interactive public health experience has the potential to change the way our community looks at emergency preparedness and response -- one child at a time.

 

Master Sgt Darlene M. Foote, U.S. Air Force (retired) serves as Director of Communications for Cobb & Douglas Public Health (District 3-1) in Marietta, Georgia.