CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- The situation is dire. A flu pandemic tears through the Chattanooga area and thousands need medicine. But many are too sick to even get to the doctor, much less the drugstore.
What do you do?
That was the question raised Thursday during a public forum held by several national medical agencies in Chattanooga. Led by officials from the Institute of Medicine and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 50 Hamilton County residents spent four hours learning more about flu pandemics and brainstorming on ways best to deliver needed medications.
"We are reaching out to people from all walks of life to get their input on an important issue," said Dr. Art Kellermann, the vice president and director of Rand Health, who was co-chairman of the event at the Hamilton County Health Department.
Allowing pharmacists to prescribe medication, having family members pick up medication for sick patients and using phone banks that people can call for prescriptions are all options under consideration, officials said.
Kellermann, who grew up in South Pittsburg, Tenn., said Chattanooga is one of three communities in the nation to participate in the public engagement events. One event has been held in Montana and another one will be held in California.
The H1N1 pandemic in 2009 illustrated the need to plan ahead to meet the challenges of distributing prescription drugs, officials told the community members.
During the forum, community members split into smaller groups, then presented their top three ideas to the entire group.
Using Red Cross volunteers and first responders to deliver medication to the community was one suggestion offered during the forum. Because of natural disasters in the area, the Chattanooga region has a strong network of first responders and volunteers who already are trained, one person noted.
Other suggestions included using social media such as Twitter and Facebook to provide information quickly.
If phone banks were used for prescriptions, they would need to be staffed adequately, several people warned.
Kellermann praised the community participants who took the time to offer ideas.
"The feedback and engagement has been great," he said. "Everyone came ready to offer ideas."