The Great Plains Public Health Training Center

Public Health in the National News – The UNMC College of Public Health is pleased to announce the Great Plains Public Health Training Center (PHTC), a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)-funded PHTC. PHTCs are partnerships between accredited schools of public health, related academic institutions, and public health agencies and organizations. The PHTC program is designed to improve the nation’s public health system by strengthening the technical, scientific, managerial, and leadership competence of current and future public health professionals.


The Great Plains PHTC will address public health workforce education and training needs through governmental, academic, tribal, and regional collaboration; systematic assessment of needs; competency-based adult learning and workforce development; leadership and management training; field placements and collaborative projects; and evaluation and quality improvement.

Achieving the mission of public health—ensuring conditions in which all people can be healthy—requires competent public health workers. Current and emerging threats to health and safety must be countered with an educated and trained workforce. The changing landscape and demographics of the public health workforce creates an increased need for education and training. The first task for the Great Plains PHTC is to conduct a needs assessment to determine the education and training needs for Nebraska’s public health workforce. The center will use a range of quantitative methods (data collection from surveys, workforce demographics, statistical analysis, etc.) and qualitative methods (interviews, focus groups, case studies, etc.) to assess the workforce development, education, and training needs of Nebraska’s public health workforce. In addition, this assessment will allow the Great Plains PHTC to inventory existing assets, strengths, and gaps in training and education. The next phase will be to develop training solutions and learning modules offered in a traditional face-to-face format as well as online. For more information, visit the center’s website at

This article was written by Brandon Grimm, MPH, associate director of the Great Plains Public Health Training Center and director of the UNMC COPH Office of Public Health.

Dr. Rautiainen Focuses on Agricultural Health and Safety

Spotlight on Research at COPH

“Farmer run over and pinned under rear wheel of a tractor,” “Rancher knocked down by a cow while moving cattle on ranch,” “Two workers overcome by toxic gases when pumping manure between lagoons.” These are examples of serious agricultural injuries in Nebraska last year. Agriculture is the most hazardous industry in the nation, yet we rarely hear about it in the news. If there is a major mining incident, it is front-page news worldwide—and rightly so. But while in 2010 there were 172 mining fatalities in the US, agriculture had 596 fatalities and a fatality rate eight times higher than all industries on average. Dr. Risto Rautiainen, associate professor in the Department of Environmental, Agricultural, and Occupational Health, states that “one reason that farm incidents are under-reported in the media is that they typically involve just one victim.” Injuries such as those listed above may be reported locally, but they are not newsworthy beyond the local TV viewing area. “And this is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Dr. Rautiainen. “From surveys and studies, we know that non-fatal injuries and work-related illnesses are frequent on farms, but data on these outcomes are not collected systematically. We don’t have a clear picture of their frequency, risk factors, and causes, or if are we making progress in prevention.”


Even from the limited data available, it is clear agricultural injuries and illnesses are a major public health problem in Nebraska and the nation—but is there a solution? The UNMC College of Public Health recently established a new center with funding from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (PI Dr. Rautiainen) started operation in October, joining a national network of nine similar centers. “This is a significant new resource for Nebraska and the region,” states Dr. Rautiainen. “Our center will investigate asthma in animal confinement workers, and we will conduct annual surveys to establish injury rates and risk factors for our seven-state region, including Nebraska. We will collaborate with partners reaching out to farm audiences, including traditional family farms, and non-traditional farm operations, including organic farms and part-time farms. We will collaborate with the media in getting the word out about prevention. This is an exciting new opportunity for us, and we hope that with this new resource, we can make a difference, reducing injury and illness among farmers, family members, and workers on farms and ranches in Nebraska and the region.”

Improving Police Interactions with People with Mental Illnesses

Public Health in the National News
by Shinobu Watanabe-Galloway, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Epidemiology, Steve Ryan, and Kate Watkins


Persons with severe mental illness or developmental disorders have long faced incarceration in jails or prisons as the alternative to hospitalization. Today, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that 64% of jail inmates in the United States have mental health problems. The absolute numbers of persons with severe mental illness are greater in American jails and prisons than in our hospitals, making jails the largest de facto institutions for the mentally ill. A Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) is one law enforcement response model used to divert people with mental illness from the criminal justice system. CIT began in Memphis, Tennessee, in the late 1980s in response to an incident in which an armed man with a history of mental illness was killed by a police officer. CIT is based on partnership between law enforcement and mental health care providers. In the CIT model, sworn law enforcement officers receive special training and are active liaisons to the formal mental health system. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has played a significant role in promoting the CIT model. Typically, the CIT training program consists of 40 hours of activities, including presentations by mental health and law enforcement professionals, panel discussions with community members who have mental illness and their family members, site visits of mental health care facilities, experiential learning about hallucination, interactive training for crisis de-escalation, and scenario-based training to respond to crisis situations. One of the more recent movements is expansion of the CIT program to include training of officers to address the specific needs of youth. CIT for Youth brings together schools, law enforcement, mental health providers, and advocates to address the needs of children and youth and to prevent their involvement in the juvenile justice system.

The Heartland CIT program began in March 2006 to train law enforcement personnel in Douglas County and surrounding communities. Over 300 officers from more than 20 agencies in the southeastern counties in Nebraska have been trained through this program. Recently, the program added a youth CIT training. Dr. Shinobu Watanabe-Galloway has been evaluating the program since its inception.

Foodborne Disease Risk During the Holidays

Public Health Community Advisory – Foodborne Disease Risk During the Holidays
KM Monirul Islam, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Epidemiology


Several holidays that many people in the United States will be celebrating are right around the corner. Many people will get together with family and friends, often to share a meal. Unless we’re careful, holiday meals may pose health risks and injuries to those we care about. Dr. Islam, who has been an infectious disease practitioner and currently teaches infectious disease classes in the COPH, shares information about foodborne disease and how to avoid it:

Foodborne disease is one of the most common health hazards we will encounter during the holidays. An estimated 48 million people get sick and approximately 3,000 deaths occur each year in the United States due to consuming contaminated food. Although the global burden of foodborne disease and its impact on development and trade is currently unknown in both industrialized and developing countries, we do know it is more prevalent in developing countries. Certainly everyone is at risk, but some individuals are at greater risk for developing more aggressive symptoms and even death. Infants, young children, pregnant women, older adults, and individuals with weakened immune systems (those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, and kidney disease, and transplant patients) may become ill after ingesting only a few harmful bacteria, whereas others may remain symptom free after ingesting thousands of harmful bacteria.

The most common clinical presentation of foodborne disease takes the form of gastrointestinal symptoms, which can lead to chronic, life-threatening symptoms, and death. Foodborne illness symptoms may occur within minutes to weeks after consuming contaminated food or beverages and often appear as flu-like symptoms, as the ill person may experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or fever. Because the symptoms are often flu-like, people may not realize that they have foodborne illness. Salmonella and E. coli are the two organisms responsible for major foodborne disease outbreaks in the United States. Raw or undercooked meat, poultry, or shellfish are the foods most often associated with foodborne disease. Other foods that are associated with foodborne disease include improperly canned foods, garlic in oil, and vacuum-packed and tightly wrapped food.

Foodborne disease is a preventable public health issue. With simple food hygiene and careful food handling, we can prevent and minimize the occurrence of foodborne illness. To prevent foodborne disease,
Carefully prepare meats when you barbecue; avoid unpasteurized milk and unpasteurized juices such as fresh apple cider; and when traveling in developing countries, avoid consuming raw fruits and vegetables and unbottled water.

Avoid foods such as meat, gravy, and salads that have been left out for long periods at steam tables, at room temperature, or on a buffet.

Seek treatment for symptoms if the victim (you or a family member) is in an “at risk” group or if symptoms are severe or persistent.

Call the local health department if the suspected food was served at a large gathering place, such as a restaurant or other food service facility, or if the suspected food is a commercial product.

Public Health and Medical Disaster Response in Action: The Joplin story.

UNMC’s College of Public Health begins National Preparedness Month by launching a marketing campaign for a national conference entitled: Public Health and Medical Disaster Response in Action: The Joplin story. The conference will bring together representatives from the Joplin, MO community’s response agencies and organizations as well as the hospitals that were directly affected by the disaster, to tell their stories of how they responded to this catastrophic tornado and share their lessons learned.

More information can be found at

This conference showcases the many programs offered by the College of Public Health’s Center for Biopreparedness, Biosecurity and Emerging Infectious Diseases. The Center has been operational since 2002 and The Center’s mission is to enhance preparedness skills and knowledge of professionals in the field, in the areas of medical preparedness, first responder preparedness, public health preparedness, and business/industry preparedness through affordable, needs-based training; customized organizational assistance; and comprehensive resources.
National Preparedness Month also marks the launch of the College of Public Health’s post-baccalaureate Certificate in Emergency Preparedness. This program requires 18 credits to complete and the Center’s ten year repertoire of educational programs will serve as the basis for the design, development and delivery of emergency preparedness-related curricula. The Federal Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) core focus areas will form the structural basis for all course development and are as follows: Prevent, Protect, Respond and Recover.

For more information on this program visit our website at: