This book is intended to be an accessible and practical core text on the three domains of health protection: Communicable Disease Control, Emergency Preparedness Resilience and Response (EPRR), and protection of the public from environmental hazards (Environmental Public Health).
We have written the book for students, health protection practitioners, and general public health professionals. The book will also be helpful for health protection specialists. No prior medical or clinical knowledge is assumed in any chapter, and supporting information for more technical issues is available throughout the book.
As well as introducing the essential principles of health protection work, the book guides the reader in dealing with real incidents through a combination of representative case studies and quick reference action checklists (called SIMCARDs in the book from the acronym—see below).
We have attempted to develop an “all-hazards approach” in dealing with health protection situations. Most health protection books confine themselves to one of the three domains, whereas this book presents a practical and generic approach to the wide range of possible hazards, with some account of the principles of health protection on which day-to-day practice rests.
Health protection covers a broad range of topics and while some may wish to read the full contents of the book in order, others may seek to improve their knowledge of particular topics, or use the book quickly to find relevant information when faced with a real-life situation. For this reason, each chapter has been designed as much as possible to be self-contained. The first section, however, which succinctly sets out the essential basics of health protection, should be the starting point for any reader who does not already possess a broad familiarity with the field. The remaining sections and chapters of the book can effectively be read in any order.
Each case study chapter immerses the reader in a common health protection scenario which develops in stages, in much the same way as health protection cases and incidents develop in real life. As the story unfolds, the reader will learn about the nature and significance of the specific threat to population health, the practical steps and issues involved in an effective public health response and the health protection principles underpinning that response.
Each case study chapter follows the same basic format, including:
♦ Background facts about the topic
♦ What’s the story? setting out the initial realistic scenario which the chapter will work through
♦ Sections covering What action should be taken? and additional Information helping the reader to think through the public health response required
♦ Update sections describing new developments in the scenario
♦ What if …? briefly describing common variations on the scenario featured in the chapter
♦ Lessons learned—summarizing key learning points from the chapter
♦ Unanswered questions and Further thinking sections covering gaps in current knowledge on the topic and issues for further consideration or reflection
♦ Additional reading, pointing the reader to other sources of information
The case study chapters (scenarios) are followed by chapters that provide a deeper understanding of the key tools and mechanisms used in day-to-day health protection work, and insights into new and emerging health protection issues.
Three appendices of practical checklists, called SIMCARDs, give a quick-reference tool covering more than 180 common or important topics which can arise in health protection practice (including those featured in the case study chapters). They offer concise and practically focused information for practitioners needing a simple guide which can be used by all, including non-specialists, in time-pressured situations.
The variety of chapters covered throughout the book on Communicable Diseases, Emergency Preparedness Resilience and Response, and Environmental Public Health, offer a unique perspective borne out of practical experience, which is not easily accessible elsewhere.
The acronym SIMCARD stands for:
S = Signs and symptoms/situation
I = Incubation Period & Infectivity (= lead time in environmental issues)
M = Mode of transmission/exposure
C = Confirmation/Criteria, both clinical and laboratory
A = Action (including immediate and essential public health actions)
R = Report/Communication on a need-to-know basis
D = Disease clusters and outbreaks/outcome patterns
SIMCARD is a simple, memorable approach which captures all relevant information which is needed to enable a public health practitioner methodically to assess the issue, provide advice and act. The SIMCARD approach also allows clinicians to provide immediate public health advice to fellow professionals and patients, and provide the relevant information to their local health protection or public health team for prevention and control actions.
Public health trainees preparing for the Membership of the Faculty of Public Health examinations, non-specialist health protection staff, and, hopefully, other healthcare professionals, such as general practitioners, Infection Prevention and Control teams, and hospital clinicians, will find these chapters particularly useful.
It is also envisaged that SIMCARDs will serve as an essential first port of call for other professionals, including undergraduate and postgraduate medical students, and others who are interested in identifying accurate information to guide or inform public health action.