Any highly-functioning disease surveillance system is dependent upon the level of communications between public health agencies, health care providers and clinical laboratories. Technological advances such as electronic disease reporting, health alert networks, 24-hour hotlines, etc. are important and are being supported by the CDC BT grant, but there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction to improve communications, raise participation and assure cooperation in time of need.
The Public Health Liaison Program has a network of Public Health Liaisons (PHL) in each Health District to actively promote communications between the public health and health care communities.
The goals of the PHL program are to:
- Promote partnership between the private medical community, other ancillary providers, clinical laboratories and District and County Health Departments;
- Increase reporting of communicable disease and unusual events (including those possibly related to bioterrorism);
- Promote the use of public health prevention programs, materials and services
Public Health Liaisons serve as customer service agents to bridge the gap between public health, the private medical community, and the community at large. Similar to the model of pharmaceutical sales representatives, the PHLs make visits to medical providers, but instead of selling prescriptions, they are, in essence, selling public health. At these visits, PHLs train medical providers on the reporting procedures for notifiable diseases, offer health education materials for use with their patients, and promote programs and resources that are available through the public health system. One of the goals of the PHL program is to greatly improve prompt and accurate reporting of notifiable diseases to aid in any bioterrorism response. In addition, PHLs attend many trainings, serve on various committees, and attend community meetings so that they can provide assistance to their District colleagues on a variety of issues.
Each Health District receives Grant-In-Aid funding for a full-time Public Health Liaison. There is a Public Health Liaison in every Health District in Georgia.