Background: Health care planning for pandemic influenza is a challenging task which requires predictive models by which the impact of different response strategies can be evaluated. However, current preparedness plans and simulations exercises, as well as freely available simulation models previously made for policy makers, do not explicitly address the availability of health care resources or determine the impact of shortages on public health. Nevertheless, the feasibility of health systems to implement response measures or interventions described in plans and trained in exercises depends on the available resource capacity. As part of the AsiaFluCap project, we developed a comprehensive and flexible resource modelling tool to support public health officials in understanding and preparing for surges in resource demand during future pandemics.
Results: The AsiaFluCap Simulator is a combination of a resource model containing 28 health care resources and an epidemiological model. The tool was built in MS Excel© and contains a user-friendly interface which allows users to select mild or severe pandemic scenarios, change resource parameters and run simulations for one or multiple regions. Besides epidemiological estimations, the simulator provides indications on resource gaps or surpluses, and the impact of shortages on public health for each selected region. It allows for a comparative analysis of the effects of resource availability and consequences of different strategies of resource use, which can provide guidance on resource prioritising and/or mobilisation. Simulation results are displayed in various tables and graphs, and can also be easily exported to GIS software to create maps for geographical analysis of the distribution of resources.
Conclusions: The AsiaFluCap Simulator is freely available software (http://www.cdprg.org) which can be used by policy makers, policy advisors, donors and other stakeholders involved in preparedness for providing evidence based and illustrative information on health care resource capacities during future pandemics. The tool can inform both preparedness plans and simulation exercises and can help increase the general understanding of dynamics in resource capacities during a pandemic. The combination of a mathematical model with multiple resources and the linkage to GIS for creating maps makes the tool unique compared to other available software.