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UofL researchers to tackle ‘real-time’ pandemic response

by Erman,Linda last modified Jun 17, 2010 12:17 PM

March 16, 2010

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – When a pandemic attack happens, some chaos seems inevitable. No matter how well a community has planned its response, circumstances are constantly changing – and so should the response plan during and after an attack. So how can agencies and health care providers adapt to that evolving aftermath?

The University of Louisville will lead a federally funded effort to develop computer software that would allow health and emergency professionals to allocate and reallocate their resources – people and equipment – in response to the shifting conditions that would follow an attack.

UofL President James Ramsey and other officials announced today that U.S. Department of Homeland Security funding, through the Somerset, Ky.-based National Institute for Hometown Security, would be used for the three-year project. The initial 18-month installment of the expected $3.3 million funding is $1.7 million, which U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers, R-Ky., secured.

The research group, headed by industrial engineering professor Sunderesh Heragu, includes professors from the J.B. Speed School of Engineering and the School of Public Health and Information Sciences. Heragu is the Mary Lee and George F. Duthie chair in engineering logistics and the director of the Logistics and Distribution Institute at UofL.

Heragu’s group will work on a “real-time” decision-support system that could provide medical care where needed even when responders and health providers themselves are affected by a pandemic or flu outbreak. He said some studies show up to 40 percent of the population could be stricken, and that could affect staffing by doctors, emergency responders, nurses and support service providers.

The researchers also will factor in the medical logistics of getting supplies, hospital beds and caregivers where they are most needed. Other priorities will be meeting the mental health needs of health care and emergency workers strained by a disaster; securing medical information in such a public health situation; and protecting health care workers with necessary personal equipment.

For more information, contact Heragu at 502-852-2741 or sshera01@louisville.edu

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