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In 1997 the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America established a consensus panel to develop recommendations for optimal infrastructure and essential activities of infection control and epidemiology programs in out-of-hospital settings. The following report represents the Consensus Panel's best assessment of requirements for a healthy and effective out-of-hospital-based infection control and epidemiology program. The recommendations fall into 5 categories: managing critical data and information; developing and recommending policies and procedures; intervening directly to prevent infections; educating and training of health care workers, patients, and nonmedical caregivers; and resources. The Consensus Panel used an evidence-based approach and categorized recommendations according to modifications of the scheme developed by the Clinical Affairs Committee of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee.