School of Public Health

SPH news

Posted Date: May 25, 2018

By Sally Crocker

Marissa TanUNT Health Science Center dual-degree student Marissa Tan, who graduates this month with both a D.O. degree and a Master’s in Public Health (MPH), has received the U.S. Public Health Service Award for Excellence in Public Health, in recognition of her work to promote health equity through academics, research and volunteerism.

This national award is given to medical students who are public health champions in advancing the U.S. Public Health Service mission to “protect, promote and advance the health and safety of the nation” and who are helping to address public health issues in their communities.

Since 2012, the Excellence in Public Health Award has been given by the USPHS to visionary medical students who are advancing initiatives to improve social justice.

Prior to beginning her studies in the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (TCOM) and the School of Public Health, Tan worked for AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) at a public housing authority in Reading, Pennsylvania, where she developed resources, mobilized partnerships and informed/measured programming to increase public housing residents’ access to wellness opportunities for improving nutrition and physical activity.

While at UNTHSC, she was involved as a graduate research assistant for “Better Me Within,” a community-based participatory research program working with Dallas churches to reach African American women at high risk for obesity-related chronic illnesses.

Through her epidemiology elective at the CDC, Tan also assisted in projects related to One Health Zoonotic Disease Prioritization; the 2017 Brucella RB51 raw milk outbreak in North Texas; and emergency response efforts for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

“Being able to add the MPH to my medical degree was important, because I had seen up close the barriers to health that vulnerable populations face when I worked for VISTA,” Tan said. “Beyond the individual patient, there are larger determinants of health, like social, environmental and economic factors, and I wanted to study those alongside my medical courses, in pursuit of health equity.”

Following graduation, Tan will pursue a residency in preventive medicine with a transitional year in Cooperstown, New York, and then Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore.

Posted Date: May 21, 2018

By Sally Crocker

UsphsUNT Health Science Center has been selected as this year’s Academic Partner for the 2018 United States Public Health Service (USPHS) Scientific and Training Symposium, to be held June 4-7 in Dallas.

This conference, which annually draws more than 1,200 U.S. Public Health Service members and health professionals nationwide, offers an opportunity for attendees to gain continuing education credits, build peer relationships, and learn about advances in the fields of health care and public health.

UNTHSC School of Public Health faculty and students will be presenting at the symposium, which will focus this year on “Ensuring Health for Generations to Come: Science Matters.”

The theme is intended to showcase initiatives and activities that address upstream influences on health and help protect, promote and advance the health and safety of the nation and future generations.

Presenters from the UNTHSC School of Public Health will include:

  • Scott Walters, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Health Behavior and Health Systems: “m-chat: Integrating Health Coaching and Technology with Vulnerable Clients
  • Erika Thompson, PhD, Assistant Professor, Health Behavior and Health Systems: “A Social Determinants of Health Approach to HPV Vaccination among Young Adult Women, National Health Interview 2016
  • Marcy Paul, PhD, Assistant Professor, Health Behavior and Health Systems: “#PPEPtalk Texas – A Life Course and Peer Preconception Health Education Program in Texas
  • Erica Stockbridge, PhD, Assistant Professor, Health Behavior and Health Systems: “Public Health/Private Healthcare Sector Initiatives to Forward Domestic Tuberculosis Elimination
  • SPH student Jialiang Liu with Menghua Tao, PhD, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Biostatistics and Epidemiology: “Comparison of Micronutrient Intakes by Body Weight Level among African American and Hispanic Women
  • Dana Litt, PhD, Associate Professor, Health Behavior and Health Systems:I Tweet, Therefore I Am: Examining the Relations Between Alcohol-related Twitter Content and Alcohol Cognitions and Alcohol Use among Young Adults
  • Melissa Lewis, PhD, Professor, Health Behavior and Health Systems: “Evaluating Personalized Feedback Intervention Framing with a Randomized Controlled Trial to Reduce Young Adult Alcohol-related Sexual Risk Taking
  • Harvey Brenner, PhD, Professor, Health Behavior and Health Systems: “Impact of Patient and Hospital Economic Resources on Patient Safety and Hospital Mortality
  • SPH student Leslie Allsopp with David Sterling, PhD, CIH, ROH, Professor, Biostatistics and Epidemiology: “Estimating School Exposure to Ambient Air Pollution, to Inform Siting of Lower Cost Air Monitors and Support Measures to Reduce Risk

Posted Date: May 15, 2018

By Sally Crocker

Wiley Ppeptalk

College student Tassanee Harris isn’t planning to start a family anytime soon, but she’s taking steps now to help ensure that when she’s ready, she can be at her healthiest, to give her future children the best start possible.

Harris, a junior at Paul Quinn College, a Historically Black College in Dallas, is an advisory board member for #PPEPtalk, a Peer Preconception Education (PPE) program led by a UNT Health Science Center public health team, funded by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Sponsored by a state grant since 2015, the program is managed by Principal Investigator Marcy L. Paul, PhD, Assistant Professor in the UNTHSC School of Public Health, and PPE Project Coordinator Lesley Jimenez, MA, MPH, CPH.

So far, the program has reached more than 900 students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) in Texas, using peer relationships to spread preconception information and Life Course health messages, in an effort to break the cycle of infant mortality among African Americans.

Unthsc Ppeptalk“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health (OMH), the national link to our program, launched a campaign in 2007, “A Healthy Baby Begins with You,” to raise awareness and address the troubling rates of infant mortality among African Americans, focusing on the steps women and men of childbearing age should take to improve their health,” Dr. Paul said. “Data shows that infants born to African American mothers are more than twice as likely to die during their first year of life, and research indicates that by improving a woman’s overall health throughout her lifetime, birth outcomes, and the health of her children and their children can be improved.”

PPE uses a “train the trainer” approach, certifying student peer educators, who then introduce programs and activities on their campuses related to physical and mental health, sexual health, healthy relationships and preconception wellness.

“The goal is to get the campus healthy before they decide they are ready to start a family and have kids,” Harris said.

At Paul Quinn, the program has been important in helping students who live away from home who might not always practice healthy behaviors.

“We offer stress relief programs. We distribute condoms and host speakers on sexual health. We host ‘Get into Shape’ events, yoga classes and nutrition programs where we talk about eating healthy on a college student’s budget,” Harris said. “Our most successful events have been Campus Open Mic Nights, where students have the voice. Anyone can take the microphone to talk about mind, body and soul in any way they want; people sing, dance, share poetry, it’s up to them, and it gets pretty creative.”

The programs have been so well received on campus, Harris said, that their PPE group won Paul Quinn Organization of the Year for 2017.

“The program is much needed on our campus as well as the community, and it’s currently in the works to also reach out to surrounding zip codes near our school,” she said.

Project Coordinator Jimenez travels the state to connect with the nine Texas HBCU’s, and the students themselves communicate across campuses to share ideas that have worked for them.

“The question we are often asked is, if I’m not planning to have a baby, why would I care,” Jimenez said. “Students are surprised to learn how their health behaviors now can impact the future, and for male students, it also involves building awareness of how they, too, are a part of preconception health.”

Dallas neonatologist Terri L. Major-Kincade, MD, has been involved with PPE since 2012, helping to develop the curriculum with March of Dimes, leading workshops and serving as faculty and mentor.  She was the first to present PPE in Texas when she trained students at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University.

“Some of the biggest accomplishments of the program so far have been the sheer number of students we have been able to train and the number of HBCU’s we have made connections with,” she said. ”One of my favorite classes involved the football team at Texas College in Tyler. It was really cool to see football players getting excited about playing the Life Course Game, holding tiny preterm baby models, learning about sexual health and how it affects babies, and offering suggestions for increasing awareness on campus from the male point of view. Since the program joined UNT Health Science Center, we have been able to reach even more students and bring in additional institutions across Texas to help share the message.”

Posted Date: May 9, 2018

By Sally Crocker

Sph Students 2018

The UNT Health Science Center School of Public Health (SPH) recently recognized 2017-18 academic year student, faculty, staff and alumni accomplishments at its annual End of Year Celebration.

At the ceremony, Brandon Hoff, MPH – Maternal and Child Health (MACH) concentration, was admitted into the Alpha Sigma Chapter of Delta Omega national public health honor society, which recognizes demonstrated academic excellence, leadership, activity, commitment and exemplary work in the field of public health.

Dr. Witold Migala, Chapter President, said, “As a MACH student, Brandon’s goal was to learn, be a leader among his peers, and use his critical understanding of public health as the foundation for his medical school goals. Mr. Hoff’s academic achievements are stellar; he has also taken advantage of the many SPH opportunities that have added to his MPH educational and practical experiences, toward the DO degree he will pursue in the fall.”

Dr. Migala also named this year’s community inductee, Mayor Betsy Price, into the honor society, for her longstanding commitment to public health initiatives in the Fort Worth community, including the Blue Zones Project, Smoke Free Fort Worth, The Fort Worth Safe Communities Coalition, Bike Share, Safe Roads Initiative and Childhood Literacy programs.

Dr. Fifonsi Gbeasor, MPH ’08, was named as this year’s alumni inductee into Delta Omega, to recognize her outstanding work in public health since completing her UNTHSC degree.

Dr. Thombs & ShlesmaSince graduating from the SPH, Dr. Gbeasor has received a certificate in Gerontology from the Universite’ de Lille 2, France, and is currently working on her PhD and a public heath residency from the Universite’ de Lome’ Public Health Department, Universite de Lome’, Togo.

“Dr. Gbeasor demonstrates a strong commitment to improving the health of others through public health activities and initiatives,” Dr. Migala said. “She has also dedicated time to helping future students learn about public health, and she brings a unique, international perspective to her practice.”

Dr. Misty Smethers from the SPH faculty was also inducted into Delta Omega, for her dedicated service to student success and the mission of the SPH.

“In leading the Office of SPH Academic Services, she is focused on helping students achieve their greatest public health potential,” Dr. Migala said.

With a wide range of experience, research and academic accomplishments, Dr. Smethers has worked at UNT Health Science Center for 12 years and for the SPH for the last nine years, serving as an advocate for student needs and encouraging quality and achievement. She has previously been honored as Outstanding Staff Member by the UNTHSC Public Health Student Government Association (PHSGA) in 2016, 2014 and 2010, and was named as Outstanding PHSGA Advisor in 2010.

Students named to the Dean’s List by Dr. Dennis Thombs, SPH Dean, were Upendra Chaudhary, Phoebe Chi, Christian Chukwuma, Jessica De Hoyos, Christopher Dievi, Laura Abasi Feghali, Tasneem Hasan, Brandon Hoff, Deepti Joshi, Hannah Ligon, Jennifer Liou, Danielle Lynn, Michael McClure, Armando Moreno, Jessica Mussatto, Sarah Paetz, Kim Rahebi, Laci Sherman, Mandy Spadine, Kathleen Spangler, Stephanie Spohr, Marissa Tan, Maureen Thomas and Calvin Wimmer.

Laura Phipps was presented with the Dean’s Award for Scholarly Excellence in Academics, and Shlesma Chhetri received the Dean’s Award for Scholarly Excellence in Research.

This year’s Leon Brachman Award was presented to Lily Metzler. The award is given annually to a public health student in the MPH or MHA program demonstrating exemplary academic achievement in his or her graduate course of study. The award is named in honor of the community leader and philanthropist who helped establish the UNTHSC School of Public Health in 1999.

The 2018 Kenneth Cooper Award winner was Yuhan Huang. This award – presented to an outstanding MPH or MHA student demonstrating excellence and quality in the application of research methods in preparation for the thesis or other research activities – is named for best-selling author and internationally known health/wellness guru Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, who started the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas in 1970 and pioneered the concept of preventive medicine and healthy lifestyle.

Drs. Bell & SuzukiCurtizia Alexander was presented with the Bob Crow Award, named for the former executive director of the Texas charitable Amon G. Carter Foundation and past member of the school’s Steering Committee, recognizing an outstanding MPH or MHA student with exemplary leadership and service to the school and community.

The UNTHSC Public Health Student Government Association also presented honors, highlighting faculty and staff members for going above and beyond in support of SPH students.

“Each year, the PHSGA recognizes faculty and staff who have supported students through quality teaching, research, advising and service,” said student representative Armando Moreno on behalf of PHSGA. “These awards were voted on by the student body and serve to acknowledge faculty and staff who have worked hard over the last year and have consistently gone out of their way to ensure student success.”

Recognized were Dr. Wonseok Choi for Outstanding Faculty in Teaching, Department of Health Behavior and Health Systems; Dr. Brad Cannell for Outstanding Faculty in Teaching, Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology; Dr. Melissa Oden for Outstanding Faculty Member in Research, Department of Health Behavior and Health Systems; Dr. Alisa Rich for Outstanding Faculty Member in Research, Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology; Dr. Katherine Fogelberg, Outstanding Faculty Advisor, receiving this award for the second year in a row; and Beth Hargrove as Outstanding Public Health Staff Member.

The following individuals were thanked for their service over the year as 2018 SPH Student Ambassadors, assisting and serving as a resource for panels, tours, interview days and other events; some also worked as part of the Admissions Office team during the year: Luvleen Dharni, Vaishu Garapati, Rusty Gordon, Priscilla Kha, Ayianna Kennerly, Sarah Matthes, Laura Mayfield, Kimberly Morris, Jessica Mussato, Sana Nashikkar, Tony Nnaka, Natalie Requenez and Maureen Thomas.

Students recognized for their help in welcoming peers to the new school year, assisting with scheduling issues, helping to guide peers through mid-terms and preparations for finals, assisting with event planning and working on SPH Academic Services communications throughout the year were Sarah Paetz, Crystal Bui, Curtizia Alexander, Esther Galadima, Alice Miank, Elizabeth Velarde, Hector Rodriguez, Natalie Requenez and Vaishu Garapati.

This year a new award was presented for SPH Faculty and Staff Recognition, to honor SPH faculty for excellent/impactful teaching, research or service, and SPH staff for major contributions to the school and their department over the previous 12 months. Candidates were nominated by their peers, with award selections made by a committee of non-administrative faculty and staff.

Honored for Excellence in Teaching were Dr. Karen Bell and Dr. Karabi Nandy.

Dr. Marcy Paul was recognized for Excellence in Service, which honors individuals who have made a measurable impact on public health, policy or practice.

The Excellence by Staff award went to Ms. Terry Voss. This presentation honors outstanding performance by a School of Public Health staff member for contributions to the community and others, or noteworthy efforts that go above and beyond workplace duties and expectations.

Posted Date: May 2, 2018

By Sally Crocker

Betsy Price Presentation 2

Mayor Betsy Price has been a tireless advocate for improving the health and well-being of Fort Worth residents, from backing the Blue Zones and FitWorth initiatives for a healthier community, to supporting a Smoke-Free Fort Worth and leading the charge for safe neighborhoods, bike sharing, safe roads, physical activity, children’s literacy and an engaged public.

Betsy Price Presentation 5To recognize her many contributions to the community, UNT Health Science Center’s Alpha Sigma Chapter of Delta Omega Honor Society in Public Health has awarded Mayor Price with honorary membership.

“Honorary membership is presented to individuals who have made exceptional strides in public health,” said Dr. Dennis Thombs, UNTHSC School of Public Health Dean.  “Each year, we name certain students, faculty, alumni and select community members to this national honor society, to recognize the merit of their work and encourage further excellence and commitment in public health.”

Mayor Price was recognized at the May 1, 2018, Fort Worth City Council meeting by Dr. Thombs; Dr. Emily Spence-Almaguer, UNTHSC Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Health Equity; and Dr. Witold Migala, Associate Professor and President of the Delta Omega Alpha Sigma Chapter.

“UNT Health Science Center has been pleased to work in partnership with Mayor Price and local leaders on a number of healthy-community programs over the years, and we look forward to continuing our association,” Dr. Thombs said. “Our goals are the same, based on a desire to help our community thrive through improved quality of life for all.”

Posted Date: April 25, 2018

By Sally Crocker

Elizabeth Velarde 2

As a busy mom juggling graduate school, part-time employment, volunteering in the community and caring for her family, UNTHSC public health student Elizabeth Velarde understands the challenges that parents face when time is at a premium and it’s important to get things right.

Before coming to UNT Health Science Center to pursue her MPH in Maternal and Child Health, Velarde was a bilingual community educator for Family Compass, a North Texas nonprofit organization dedicated to equipping parents with the tools they need to build safe, healthy, stable families.

She trained as a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician in 2014 and has since been providing one-on-one instruction to parents on how to properly use child car seats.

“With funding through a State of Texas grant, a coworker and I created a car seat program for Family Compass when I worked there, and because I have such a personal, vested interest in the program, I have continued to stay on as a volunteer,” she said. “We distribute and help install free car seats at community events and teach parents about important safety issues. Statistics show that many parents are not using their child car restraints as intended and need help in getting it right. That’s where we come in.”

At any given event, Velarde and Family Compass staff distribute around 35 to 40 child car seats.

Elizabeth Velarde 1“That might not sound like a lot, but one appointment can sometimes take up to an hour. A family we recently served had a minivan and five kids. Installation can be a hot, sweaty job, especially with older cars, seat belts that won’t cooperate or just a tight fit,” she said.

Many parents are also unaware that car seats expire, generally about six years after the manufacture date.

Velarde met a family at one event who had been passing safety seats down from one child to the next; in setting up the replacements, she discovered that one had been expired for over 10 years.

“Most people are very compliant once they are trained. The issue usually is that they just don’t know all the guidelines,” she said. “I have a daughter who is 8 now, and I’m pretty sure I did everything wrong at first. There is just so much to learn as a parent.”

In addition to the community events, Velarde has also taught parent education classes at apartment complexes, PTA meetings, day care locations, homeless shelters, the county jail, anywhere she could connect with parents. Family Compass receives referrals from Child Protective Services and provides case management home visits to these families, as well as teen parents. The agency offers car seats for all clients and the community.

“It’s very rewarding to be able to reach so many different families and help meet their needs. Most parents have 100 things on their list and would love to focus more on areas like this, but they might also be facing the stress of putting food on the table, paying the rent, finding a job or a place to live, escaping domestic violence or other situations, so if we can help a little, it really means a lot,” she said. “We want everyone to leave safer than they came.”

For more information on child car safety, parents can visit the website.

Posted Date: April 19, 2018

By Sally Crocker

Laura Phipps 3

A UNT Health Science Center public health student has developed a sustainable infection control and infectious waste management program for Phebe Hospital in Liberia, where one of the first known cases of Ebola virus in Liberia was diagnosed in 2014.

DrPH candidate Laura Phipps, MPH, CPH, RS, who graduates in May from the UNTHSC School of Public Health, traveled to Liberia as part of her major doctoral project, which included researching international guidelines for waste management systems in low-resource settings, constructing an assessment survey, collecting data through personal interviews and observation, developing written policies and procedures, and designing training programs for Phebe staff on appropriate waste management and infection control practices.

Phipps presented the first trainings on site for housekeeping and nursing staff, then developed a health care waste management plan and annotated training presentations for the hospital to continue the program on its own, updating as needed and ensuring that all new staff are oriented to the program as they are hired.

“When the Ebola outbreak brought international attention to Liberia and the Liberian health care system, agencies like the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent teams to Phebe Hospital to establish response systems that are still in place today. But over time, with staff changes and resources that are severely stretched, adherence to the systems decreased,” she said.

Laura Phipps 1“Phebe is one of Liberia’s oldest medical centers, and as part of the region’s county health system, is considered as a Level 2, mid-level hospital,” Phipps said. “Approximately 100-150 outpatients are seen each weekday, with 75 to 100 patients typically treated each day in the emergency room. The Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing compound is the site of not only the County Health Team, but also additional government and private health agencies and non-governmental organizations, making Phebe a vital part of Liberia’s health care delivery system, and making it crucial for the hospital to consistently follow a standardized protocol for infection control and safe waste management.”

Since Phebe Hospital has no Human Resources department, Phipps’ plan also addresses new employee training, continuing education processes and emergency event response.

“Liberia is now calling for hospitals to have standardized policies in writing for waste management, so it’s possible that the Phebe plan could be used as a template for other health care facilities in the region,” Phipps said.

Phipps’ interest in global public health sparked an earlier trip to Haiti, where she gained prior experience working with mobile clinic services in remote, underserved villages and provided maternal health trainings, in addition to conducting a community needs assessment to help inform future health care aid and initiatives for these populations.

“My experiences in Haiti helped me prepare for Liberia and really opened my eyes to the health and social issues in developing countries,” Phipps said. “What struck me as most significant was the resilience of both countries. They are among the poorest areas of the world, yet the people are remarkable in their ability to stay strong through difficulty and challenge. The value of going overseas and working in these countries is about being able to help, and it is life changing in the deeper understanding and concern that you gain by connecting with these people, seeing their lives and learning what they face in the context of health and survival.”

Posted Date: April 16, 2018

By Sally Crocker

This year’s UNT Health Science Center Research Appreciation Day (RAD) followed in its long tradition of featuring outstanding speakers, quality research, poster presentations and honors for student and team member achievements.

RAD is an institutional event encompassing medicine, public health and basic science. The program provides an opportunity for students, faculty and staff to share their research efforts with the campus community and the public.

The program encourages the development of joint research projects and increases the community’s awareness of the outstanding quality and range of research conducted at UNT Health Science Center.

This year’s School of Public Health awardees were:


Rad Thombs And 1st Place Winner 2018

First place winner Abdullah Mamun with SPH Dean, Dr. Dennis Thombs

1st Place Poster ($500)

Presenter: Abdullah Mamun

Title: Using Machine Learning Technique To Explore Factors Associated With Change In Quality Of Life Among Permanent Supportive Housing Residents


2nd Place Poster ($350)

Presenter: Alexis Rendon

Title: Differences By Depression Severity Category In Cigarette Smoking Among Low-Income Housing Residents


Rad Thombs And 3rd Place Winners 2018

Third place winners Armando L. Moreno (left) and Brandon Hoff (right) with Dean Thombs

3rd Place Poster ($200) – (TIE)

Presenter: Armando L. Moreno

Title: A Market-Based Approach To Improving Passive Surveillance Of Tuberculosis In Tarrant County



Presenter: Brandon Hoff

Title: The Association Between Enrollment In The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program And Household Food Security Status


Congratulations to all of the 2018 honorees from the School of Public Health and across the university. For the full list of UNTHSC winners, visit the RAD website.

Posted Date: March 30, 2018

By Sally Crocker

Week Of Service 2018 1 Week Of Service 2018 3 Week Of Service 2018 4

Students, faculty and staff from the UNT Health Science Center School of Public Health (SPH) recently gave their time and energy to help local non-profit organizations during the SPH Week of Service.

Week Of Service 2018 2

SPH volunteers assisted at the Tarrant Area Food Bank, First Street Methodist Mission and Community Food Bank, and organized a campus-wide, children’s book drive for the R.D. Evans Community Center.

“Being a part of the local community is important to us, and public health is very much about serving others and helping to build healthier communities,” said Dr. Dennis Thombs, SPH Dean. “These organizations touch the lives of so many, and it’s rewarding to work side-by-side with them, even if just for a day or a few hours, and be able to assist in their much-needed efforts.”

The mission of the Tarrant Area Food Bank is to empower communities to eliminate hunger by providing food, education and resources through innovation and collaboration. The Food Bank serves over 500,000 nutritious meals each week.

First Street Methodist Mission is dedicated to serving people in need in Fort Worth and other local areas by providing emergency food, clothing, infant formula, limited financial assistance and case management services in an atmosphere of respect and compassion.

The Community Food Bank is committed to “feeding families and feeding hope” by providing food, education, programs and resources to area families in need. The agency serves as both a food pantry, providing food directly to those in need, and a food bank, collecting and distributing food to hunger-relief charities and organizations.

Posted Date: March 19, 2018

By Sally Crocker

Oden and Hopkins

Dr. Melissa Oden with Russell Hopkins

SPH team leads this CDC-funded project

A quick reference guide to help small towns and rural communities prepare for potential disaster situations is now available for free download on four Texas websites and is being rolled out across the U.S. by a UNT Health Science Center public health professor and her team.

This Toolkit for Rural Communities is the result of a CDC grant through a Planners4Health partnership between the American Planning Association Texas Chapter and the Texas Public Health Association. It will be presented nationally at the 2018 Disaster Preparedness Summit of the National Association of County and City Health Officials in Atlanta and rolled out in May at the Texas Department of Emergency Management’s annual conference.

A team of students from the UNTHSC School of Public Health and the University of Texas at Arlington’s Urban Planning and Social Work departments, led by Dr. Melissa Oden, UNTHSC Assistant Professor and Public Health Practice Experience Liaison, developed this kit in response to the needs of Van Zandt County, Texas, after a series of seven devastating tornadoes hit the community – the lessons learned, and resulting recommendations, are applicable to any community preparing for or dealing with the aftermath of a disaster.

Based on months of study, focus groups, personal interviews and other community-based research, the kit offers advice on disaster planning, immediate response and long-term recovery, with chapters and special considerations for economic impact and funding, infrastructure, mobilizing supplies, insurance, health care and EMS services, volunteer management, emotional/spiritual and social services, animals and pets, communications, resource planning and team development.

“We are grateful to so many individuals who assisted in this process, especially the Van Zandt community members who shared feedback with the team on what they wish they had known beforehand and what they would recommend to others preparing for or potentially facing a disaster from fire, flood, tornado, hurricane or other life-threatening conditions,” Dr. Oden said.

Russell Hopkins, a contributor to the project who serves as Director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness for the Northeast Texas Public Health District (NET Health), serving Van Zandt and six other counties, said the importance of the Toolkit is that it gives “rural communities the ability to immediately start building a recovery team and, importantly, provides a sound strategy to follow, based on the science and principles used in public health.”

“This Toolkit allows public health to take a leadership role in the recovery process, ” Hopkins said. “We hope that communities both in Texas and beyond can benefit from this important resource.”