(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently notified the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health that its USA Center for Rural Public Health Preparedness will receive nearly $1 million a year for the next four years to train, partner and collaborate with other centers nationwide.

The USA Center for Rural Public Health Preparedness is one of 27 in the United States and the only one with a rural focus and national breadth in projects.

Under the direction of Barbara Quiram, Ph.D., director of the Office of Special Programs at HSC-SRPH, the center has three overarching goals: public health preparedness, collaboration with other centers and states, and support of preparedness efforts by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). The center has more than 60 activities planned this year alone in working toward these goals.

Promotoras, or local community health workers in Texas border towns, receive training from the USA Center for Rural Public Health Preparedness on a broad range of topics, including infection prevention, risk communication and family preparedness for emergencies. Promotoras are being trained to assist as part of the larger surveillance network along the Texas–Mexico border that supports DSHS preparedness efforts. The center also has developed training on environmental health, mental health and infection control geared toward school nurses who are a part of the rural public health system.

Besides Texas, the USA Center for Rural Public Health Preparedness partners with Maine and South Dakota, assisting these states with their pandemic flu planning. Nationwide collaboration with other centers involves rural preparedness, pandemic flu preparedness, colleges and universities pandemic flu preparedness, and tribal preparedness.

DSHS support is provided through training and materials, as well as additional resources the USA Center for Rural Public Health Preparedness makes available from other centers and states. Center staff participates in meetings with DSHS, CDC and the other two public health preparedness centers in Texas to coordinate preparedness training and exercise activities within Texas.

Dr. Quiram also serves as vice chair of the Texas Preparedness Coordinating Council, which advises and assists the state Commissioner of Health.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its six components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, and the School of Rural Public Health.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell