Assessing the Use of Influenza Forecasts and Epidemiological Modeling in Public Health Decision Making in the United States.


Although forecasts and other mathematical models have the potential to play an important role in mitigating the impact of infectious disease outbreaks, the extent to which these tools are used in public health decision making in the United States is unclear. Throughout 2015, we invited public health practitioners belonging to three national public health organizations to complete a cross-sectional survey containing questions on model awareness, model use, and communication with modelers. Of 39 respondents, 46.15% used models in their work, and 20.51% reported direct communication with those who create models. Over half (64.10%) were aware that influenza forecasts exist. The need for improved communication between practitioners and modelers was overwhelmingly endorsed, with over 50% of participants indicating the need for models more relevant to public health questions, increased frequency of telecommunication, and more plain language in discussing models. Model use for public health decision making must be improved if models are to reach their full potential as public health tools. Increased quality and frequency of communication between practitioners and modelers could be particularly useful in achieving this goal. It is important that improvements be made now, rather than waiting for the next public health crisis to occur.

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