The development of a model of psychological first aid for non-mental health trained public health personnel: The Johns Hopkins RAPID-PFA

George S. Everly, O. Lee McCabe, Natalie L. Semon, Carol B. Thompson, Jonathan M. Links

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Introduction: The Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health Preparedness, which houses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center, has been addressing the challenge of disaster-caused behavioral health surge by conducting training programs in psychological first aid (PFA) for public health professionals. This report describes our approach, named RAPID-PFA, and summarizes training evaluation data to determine if relevant knowledge, skills, and attitudes are imparted to trainees to support effective PFA delivery. Background/Rationale: In the wake of disasters, there is an increase in psychological distress and dysfunction among survivors and first responders. To meet the challenges posed by this surge, a professional workforce trained in PFA is imperative. Methods/Activity: More than 1500 participants received a 1-day RAPID-PFA training. Pre-/postassessments were conducted to measure (a) required knowledge to apply PFA; (b) perceived self-efficacy, that is, belief in one's own ability, to apply PFA techniques; and (c) confidence in one's own resilience in a crisis context. Statistical techniques were used to validate the extent to which the survey successfully measured individual PFA constructs, that is, unidimensionality, and to quantify the reliability of the assessment tool. Results/Outcome: Statistically significant pre-/postimprovements were observed in (a) knowledge items supportive of PFA delivery, (b) perceived self-efficacy to apply PFA interventions, and (c) confidence about being a resilient PFA provider. Cronbach alpha coefficients ranging from 0.87 to 0.90 suggested that the self-reported measures possessed sufficient internal consistency. Discussion: Findings were consistent with our pilot work, and with our complementary research initiatives validating a variant of RAPID-PFA with faith communities. Lessons Learned/Next Steps: The RAPID-PFA model promises to be a broadly applicable approach to extending community behavioral health surge capacity. Relevant next steps include evaluating the effectiveness of trained providers in real crisis situations, and determining if PFA training may have potential beyond the disaster context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S24-S29
JournalJournal of Public Health Management and Practice
Issue numberSUPPL. 5
StatePublished - 2014


  • Competencies
  • Disaster mental health
  • Psychological first aid
  • Public health emergency preparedness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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