• Article

Disease intervention specialists as a resource in a public health emergency

With the current shortage of qualified staff at state and local public health departments, a flexible public health workforce could fill critical gaps in staffing. Disease intervention specialists (DISs) are public health outreach workers who are responsible for finding and counseling people with sexually transmitted diseases and their contacts. DIS skills and job duties parallel those that would be needed to respond quickly and efficiently to urgent public health problems, including bioterrorism. Including DISs in public health preparedness planning could be a practical way of providing surge capacity for departments of public health. In many states, DISs are already being used for functions that fall outside their traditional duties. However, planning and DIS training are essential for effective utilization of DIS skills in a public health emergency. North Carolina has included DISs in their bioterrorism response plans and currently deploys them on an as-needed basis for nonroutine activities.


MacDonald, P., Nelson, A. L., Hightow-Weidman, L., & Leone, P. A. (2007). Disease intervention specialists as a resource in a public health emergency. Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science, 5(3), 239 - 248. DOI: 10.1089/bsp.2007.0019

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