EP1402:                Who's Missing From The Table?  Building Partnerships with the Medical Community in Foodborne Illness Surveillance

Speakers:            Diana Wilson, REHS/RS;  Kimberly Hernandez, MPH

Detecting increases in self-reported foodborne illnesses and low report rates by medical providers, Kern County Environmental Health implemented an innovative approach to enhance collaboration between Environmental Health, public health, and the medical community.

The execution of the Foodborne Illness Surveillance Guidance Training for Medical Professionals became a successful method in communicating with the medical community and improving foodborne illness surveillance. This presentation provides an overview of the workshop design, challenges, results, and next steps that you may apply within your community.


During the years of 2009, 2010, and 2011 Kern County Environmental Health received 224, 218, and 292 consumer complaints of potential foodborne illness respectively. Providers reportedly took stool samples from 16% of cases whom sought medical attention during this time period. The increasing incidence of self-reported foodborne illness and the need to strengthen relationships with the medical community in foodborne illness surveillance prompted Environmental Health, in partnership with Public Health, to organize the Foodborne Illness Surveillance Guidance Training for Medical Professionals. The goal was threefold: 1) to educate the medical community, 2) increase provider reporting, and 3) improve surveillance of foodborne illnesses.

The training consisted of various speaker and panel discussions. An epidemiologist from the California Department of Public Health discussed the science behind detecting and responding to outbreaks. A panel composed of Public Health’s Laboratory Director and a county epidemiologist discussed the laboratory’s capabilities to test obtained stool samples and the process of reporting foodborne illnesses to Public Health. A final panel consisting of the county epidemiologist and the Food Program Supervisor discussed the medical community’s role in reporting observed increases in foodborne illness incidence.

As a result of the training, three large medical providers asked Environmental Health to continue the training as a traveling roadshow, partnering with medical facilities - including clinics and hospitals in low-income areas - to offer surveillance guidance to their entire staff. It has been evident that this unique training approach was well-received by the medical community and has resulted in improved collaboration between agencies and providers. It is optimistic that the partnerships built will lead to a continued increase in foodborne illness reporting by providers, and thus, enhanced foodborne illness surveillance in Kern County.