Date of Conferral
Public Policy and Administration
The 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center and the subsequent anthrax attacks highlighted the inability of an antiquated public health system in the United States to respond effectively to emergencies. Little documentation exists to define how public health agencies can improve performance. The overarching research question was the extent to which drills and exercises improve performance in public health emergencies. Adult learning theory and deliberate practice theory were explored in this context. The research data were from 50 state public health departments, which were required to report performance information to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data were examined using Poisson analysis and logistic regression. Results indicated that drills and exercises had no statistically significant impact on public health performance for the 3 performance measures examined; of all predictors, what explained the most variance in reaching performance targets was the number of real emergencies to which a health department had responded in the past. Performing drills and exercises did not predict the likelihood of reaching performance targets. These findings have implications for positive social change for Congressional leaders and other government representatives. Such public servants could use this information to guide their efforts to redirect public health emergency preparedness funds away from drills and exercises and toward other fundamental public health activities. These more focused efforts could facilitate the improvement of public health laboratory capacity, the training of field epidemiologists, and the advancements in technology for enhanced reporting and surveillance.