CDC Launches $180M Anti-infection Program for Healthcare Workers


CDC’s Jay Butler, MD: “It is critical that every healthcare worker in the United States has the training, information, and resources they need to protect themselves, their patients, colleagues, families, and communities from infections, and Project Firstline is designed to meet that need.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just jumped more fully into the battle against infectious disease by unveiling a $180 million program designed to help stop the spread of pathogens in healthcare settings and protect frontline healthcare workers. The program, called Project Firstline, will help to train staff in nursing homes, hospitals, dialysis centers, and other healthcare facilities on how to protect workers on the frontlines battling pathogens such as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“Project Firstline is a CDC-led collaborative intended for the millions of frontline U.S. healthcare workers,” says a CDC press release announcing the program. “It offers short training modules, townhall discussions, and tele-mentoring to ensure all workers in healthcare—from doctors to environmental services staff—are empowered with knowledge about the science and reasoning behind today’s infection control practices. Trainings will consist of concise, interactive and mobile device-friendly video segments, designed for busy frontline healthcare workers to access during breaks at work or during off hours.”

The official launch is set for tomorrow at 1 p.m. in a webinar to be hosted by the American Medical Association. Mike Bell, MD, the agency’s deputy director of the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, will be on hand to take questions from healthcare workers. You register for the webinar here.

In the CDC’s press release, which has not yet been posted to the CDC’s website, Jay Butler, MD, the agency’s deputy director for infectious disease, points out that “healthcare workers play a crucial role in our nation’s response to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. It is critical that every healthcare worker in the United States has the training, information, and resources they need to protect themselves, their patients, colleagues, families, and communities from infections, and Project Firstline is designed to meet that need. Whether a healthcare worker’s role is in environmental services or in the operating room, infection control is a team effort, and Project Firstline was developed for them.”

Linda Spaulding RN, BC, CIC, CHEC, CHOP, an infection prevention consultant and a member Infection Control Today®’s Editorial Advisory Board, called the announcement “great news.” “For years there has been a great need for more infection prevention education as well as the need for more infection preventionists,” Spaulding tells ICT®. “It’s sad it has been talked about a lot over the years and it took being in the middle of a pandemic before money was put in place to make it happen. This is a very good thing. Maybe fewer healthcare workers would have died from SARS-CoV-2 if this had happened earlier.”

It’s possible that the CDC heard a lot of comments similar to Spaulding’s. The agency says that it held listening sessions with frontline healthcare workers over the last few months to understand what they had to grapple with when COVID-19 struck.

“The online trainings Project Firstline will begin releasing in the coming weeks are intended to help meet those needs and provide accurate, actionable, and accessible infection control training,” the CDC says in its press release. “The content is designed with user flexibility in mind, allowing healthcare personnel to view one short module at a time or to combine modules in an order of their choosing to target specific training needs.”

Kevin Kavanagh, MD, another member of ICT®’s Editorial Advisory Board, says that “this efficient and highly accessible training is desperately needed as many states are making final plans for the opening of satellite hospitals and potentially assigning desperately needed staff with minimal experience in infectious disease. In addition, tracking and mandatory reporting of healthcare worker acquisitions and infections with dangerous pathogens such as COVID-19 is of utmost importance.

Saskia v. Popescu, PhD, MPH, MA, CIC, a nationally known infection control expertwho is also on ICT®’s Editorial Advisory Board, says that she’s “pleased to see the CDC launching this initiative that seeks to take a more proactive role in infections that aren’t just tied to CMS reimbursement.”

In the press release, the CDC’s Bell says that “We have seen, not surprisingly, that healthcare workers are under immense pressures to make quick decisions related to infection control, often without the critical tools that they need. Project Firstline’s training content is designed to make infection control a way of life, providing the latest science and understanding that will empower every healthcare worker to be an infection control leader on their team.”

Project Firstline will be a collaborative effort involving more than a dozen healthcare, public health, and academic institutions, the CDC says. In addition, “64 state, territorial, and local health departments through the Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity cooperative agreement to support development and dissemination of Project Firstline’s innovative, interactive infection prevention and control curriculum for healthcare and public health workforces across the United States.”

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