Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Thursday released the first U.S. strategy focused on protecting people’s health during a large-scale emergency by establishing priorities for government and non-government activities over the next four years.
“As we’ve learned in the response to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, responsibility for improving our nation’s ability to address existing and emerging health threats must be broadly shared by everyone—governments, communities, families and individuals,” Sebelius said.
The National Health Security Strategy and the accompanying interim implementation guide outline 10 objectives to achieve health security:
- Foster informed, empowered individuals and communities;
- Develop and maintain the workforce needed for national health security;
- Ensure situational awareness so responders are aware of changes in an emergency situation;
- Integrate healthcare delivery systems to respond to disasters, regardless of size;
- Ensure timely and effective communications;
- Promote an effective countermeasures enterprise, which is a process to develop, buy and distribute medical countermeasures;
- Prevent or mitigate environmental and other emerging threats to health;
- Incorporate post-incident health recovery into planning and response;
- Work with cross-border and global partners for national and global health security; and
- Ensure that all systems that support national health security are based upon the best available science, evaluation and quality improvement methods.
The National Health Security Strategy also highlighted specific actions that the U.S.— including individuals, communities, non-government organizations, and government agencies—should take to prevent, respond to and recover from health threats.
Among the initial actions for the federal government are conducting a review to improve the system for developing and delivering countermeasures, including: medications, vaccines, supplies and equipment for health emergencies; coordinating across government and with communities to identify and prioritize capabilities, research and investments needed; and evaluating the impact of these investments.
Federal, state, local, tribal and territorial government agencies, as well as medical, public health and community-based organizations, collaborated to develop the strategy and interim implementation guide, the HHS said.
To determine any additional issues and themes the strategy should address, the agency is soliciting input from non-federal participants during six regional workshops. HHS also worked with the Institute of Medicine to engage the medical community.
The Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act directed the HHS Secretary to develop the National Health Security Strategy with an accompanying implementation plan by 2009, and to revise the documents every four years. HHS, however, will update the implementation plan every two years to reflect advances in public health and medicine.
To obtain a copy of the strategy and implementation guide, visit www.hhs.gov/disasters.