Enhancing public health response to respiratory epidemics: Are family physicians ready and willing to help?

William Hogg, Patricia Huston, Carmel Martin, Enrique Soto

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17 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: To describe Ottawa family physicians' perceptions of their preparedness to respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases or other public health emergencies and to assess their capacity and willingness to assist in the event of such emergencies. DESIGN: Cross-sectional self-administered survey conducted between February 11 and March 10, 2004. SETTING: The City of Ottawa, Ont, and the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Ottawa. PARTICIPANTS: Ottawa family physicians; respondents can be considered a self-selected sample. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Self-reported office preparedness and physicians' capacity and willingness to respond to public health emergencies. RESULTS: Response rate was 41%. Of 676 physicians contacted, 274 responded, and of those, 246 completed surveys. About 26% of respondents felt prepared for an outbreak of influenza not well covered by vaccine. About 18% felt prepared for serious respiratory epidemics, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome; about 50% felt unprepared. Most respondents (80%) thought they were not ready to respond to an earthquake. About 77% of physicians were willing to be contacted on an urgent basis in case of a public health emergency. Of these, 94% would assist in immunization clinics, 84% in antibiotic clinics, 58% in assessment centres, 52% in treatment centres, 41% with declaration of death, 26% with home care, and 23% with telephone counseling. CONCLUSION: Family physicians appear to be unprepared for, but willing to address, serious public health emergencies. It is essential to set up effective partnerships between primary care and public health services to support family physicians' capacity to respond to emergencies. This type of study, along with the creation of a register of available services and of a virtual network for sharing information, is an initial step in assessing primary care response.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1254-1260
Number of pages7
JournalCanadian Family Physician
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2006
Externally publishedYes

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