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UNYPC Targets Health Department Educators Across the State with its Poison Awareness Education: Connecting for Prevention Program

The closing of three poison centers in New York State presented both challenges and opportunities for the Upstate New York Poison Center (UNYPC). With 3.6 million people added to its service area, the UNYPC sought to use distance learning in developing new strategies and partnerships for public outreach across its 54 county service area.

Poison Center Spotlight UNYPC Targets Health Department Educators across the State with its Poison Awareness Education: Connecting for Prevention Program Funding cuts that prompted the closing of three poison centers in New York State presented both challenges and opportunities for the Upstate New York Poison Center (UNYPC). Exit Disclaimer. Faced with serving a population of 7.3 million people across 54 counties, the UNYPC endeavored to use distance learning to develop new strategies and partnerships to continue its public outreach efforts. 

The UNYPC leveraged its relationship with the State University of New York Upstate Medical University and Syracuse University to enlist the field placement of two graduate students in public health at the poison center. As part of a 200-hour practicum, graduate students worked with UNYPC staff to conduct a needs assessment and to design, develop, and implement a public outreach program targeted at health department educators across the state. Utilizing a “train the trainer” approach, the program aims to teach health educators about poison prevention so that they can act as poison prevention ambassadors in their own communities. 

The Poison Awareness Education: Connecting for Prevention Program consists of a webinar, a health educator’s toolkit, and ongoing communication with the poison center. The goal of this outreach program is to: 

  • Provide an update on the staff, scope, services and functions of UNYPC
  • Demonstrate poison center teaching tools
  • Identify strategies for poison safety outreach
  • Introduce the UNYPC website as a resource
  • Explain options for reporting outreach efforts 

The health educator’s toolkit contains a copy of the UNYPC’s Stop! Ask First DVD tailored for children; an instructional resource CD about effective utilization of the toolkit; a copy of the UNYPC newsletter; and other promotional items with the Poison Help 1-800 number. The UNYPC introduced the toolkit to 36 educators across the state via webinar on October 5, 2011. The webinar Exit Disclaimer. facilitated by Gail Banach, Director of Public Education and Communications at the UNYPC, included an overview of UNYPC services and resources. 

Educators were strongly encouraged to report their efforts to their health departments and to the UNYPC. While reporting is voluntary, the UNYPC hopes to obtain feedback to measure the reach of the effort and to inform future activities. 

In using webinar technology as a vehicle for delivering public education the UNYPC hopes to extend its reach in a more standardized and cost efficient manner thereby informing the future direction of public education provided by poison centers.