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Rural Health Information Hub

Dissemination Strategies for Emergency Preparedness and Response Evaluation Findings

Sharing information and lessons learned from rural community response to emergencies and disasters can strengthen overall preparedness and response capacity. It can also help build more resilient rural communities. Rural organizations and communities can play an active role in disseminating information that builds the evidence base of what works in rural preparedness and response.

Dissemination focuses on information-sharing after an emergency or disaster. The goal of dissemination is to share information, findings, and results — particularly from post-disaster evaluations — with important audiences to promote adoption of effective planning, response, and recovery strategies. Dissemination differs from crisis communication, which is the collection and processing of information to raise awareness and reduce the threat of an emergency or disaster. For more information, see Public Safety and Crisis Communication in an Emergency or Disaster.

Dissemination Objectives

The primary objective of dissemination is to engage and inform the individuals, organizations, and partners affected by or involved with planning for and responding to an emergency or disaster event.

Other dissemination objectives may include:

  • Sharing successful approaches for preparedness and response, such as establishing operation centers, developing plans, and sharing resources
  • Sharing lessons learned — including what did and did not work during the response
  • Sharing assessment results
  • Educating the public to increase confidence and dispel misinformation and disinformation during response and recovery
  • Improving programs and initiatives for rural preparedness and response, including those at the local, state, or national levels
  • Informing partners of new and emerging public health threats
  • Building the evidence base for rural preparedness and response

Dissemination Audiences and Partners

The primary audience for dissemination is typically the local community affected by the emergency or disaster event. Disseminating information locally ensures transparency with the community by keeping individuals and organizations informed of response and recovery efforts.

Local dissemination audiences and partners include:

  • Individuals from the affected community
  • Responding organizations, such as EMS, law enforcement, fire service, and others
  • Other partners, such as local universities and academia, healthcare systems, and faith-based organizations

Responding organizations and other partners can be involved in information-gathering, collection, and dissemination efforts. It is important to maintain information and lessons learned in a centralized and accessible location. For example, having a single reporting system or information system that houses this type of information can ensure that all partners have access to the most critical and current information. Further, it is important to have dedicated staff who are trained to update and maintain the preparedness plan. This can ensure that information from post-emergency assessments is integrated into future planning. For more information, see Integrate Post-Emergency Evaluation Findings with Preparedness and Planning.

Maintaining a centralized location for information-sharing also makes it easier to share information and disseminate lessons learned within and across neighboring communities. Neighboring communities may include other rural communities, neighboring counties, and adjacent urban areas. These communities can benefit from learning about assessment and evaluation results as well as response experiences and lessons learned.

It can also be important to share information more broadly, including at the state and national level. You might wish to share your experiences with us here at RHIhub or with other state and national dissemination audiences and partners, such as:

  • State Offices of Rural Health (SORH) – provide varying services; most collect and share information, data, and resources and provide technical assistance to rural communities. Their national membership organization, the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) fosters information-sharing and collaboration through state, regional, and national partnerships.
  • Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) – organized by the USDA; provides disaster education information and resources through state Cooperative Extension Services.
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) – supports information-sharing and messaging through local offices and existing partners.

Dissemination Methods

For a general overview of common dissemination strategies and methods, see Disseminating Best Practices in the Rural Community Health Toolkit.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many rural communities found it necessary to establish regular communications to disseminate important information to individuals and organizations in the community. This included updates on guidance, testing, and resources. Common methods used for disseminating information during a response include weekly broadcasts, newsletters, webinars, and social media (Instagram, Facebook, and X). It is important to use a variety of communication channels and methods to cater to different populations within the community. In rural areas, older adults are more likely to rely on radio as their trusted source of information during an emergency.

Case Study

COVID-19 Symptom Tracking and Exposure Notification Tools Developed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) developed several COVID-19 tracking and exposure notification tools to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic. These tools increased access to COVID-19 awareness and education resources for rural communities in Alabama, including schools. Existing relationships were crucial to ensuring a “turn-key” response to the pandemic, including access to planning and response resources.

How Dissemination Builds Resilience

Lessons learned regarding information-sharing during the COVID-19 pandemic response highlight the benefit of engaging community members in response efforts early on. Doing so can support information-sharing efforts and help overcome dissemination of mis/disinformation.

Findings from post-emergency assessments, including lessons learned and best practices, can help develop knowledge and inform future action in the field of emergency preparedness and response. Having an improved understanding of what works, particularly in rural communities, contributes to risk reduction, resilience building, and helping to build back better in recovery.

Case Study

Vermont Healthcare Emergency Preparedness Coalition (VHEPC)
VHEPC developed a toolkit on medical surge best practices, compiling information and resources from across the country, to support healthcare providers in Vermont, including those in rural areas, with their COVID-19 pandemic responses.

Resources to Learn More

Development of a Planning Tool to Guide Dissemination of Research Results: Dissemination Planning Tool: Exhibit A
Presents the tool developed by AHRQ, which can be used to develop a plan for sharing research and evaluation results more broadly, with the goal of applying results to improve practice.
Author(s): Carpenter, D., Nieva, V., Albaghal, T., & Sorra, J.
Organization(s): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
Date: 2005