Author: Rachel E. Kaul, LCSW, CTS, Senior Public Health Advisor, Division for At-Risk, Behavioral Health & Community Resilience, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
Psychologically, people respond differently to disasters. Planning for those different reactions can help individuals and their communities become more resilient in the face of a disaster.
During and after an emergency, people affected by the event—including response workers—may feel distressed or anxious about their safety, health, and recovery. People may experience grief and a sense of loss.
Most survivors recover psychologically from a disaster without formal behavioral health intervention. They have pre-existing support systems that contribute to their resilience. Some people may have more severe behavioral health reactions that hinder their recovery; they may develop psychological conditions or begin substance use or abuse or these behaviors may get worse if their needs are not addressed.
Disaster behavioral health services can help people who need it after an event through communication, education, basic support, access to clinical behavioral health services, and other tools. Disaster behavioral health seeks to increase health resilience and improve the success of emergency response and recovery.
In preparing for disasters, behavioral health activities primarily focus on planning, training, and exercising public health capabilities that mitigate the behavioral health impacts of disaster. Plans that strengthen pre-existing systems, build on the daily delivery of health and behavioral health care, and address reimbursement requirements are essential to effective disaster response.
During a response, disaster behavioral health actions often focus on supportive, strengths-based interventions such as psychological first aid, crisis counseling, risk communication, and response worker support. These interventions may be provided by behavioral health professionals, but are often also provided by paraprofessionals, other health workers, volunteers, and laypeople who have received training in basic disaster behavioral health support.
Federal disaster behavioral health officials collaborate with these entities to promote preparedness and to respond in ways that integrate behavioral health into larger public health and medical response and recovery efforts. Federal experts supplement local responders based on behavioral health needs defined by state, territorial, tribal and local agencies, and they partner in longer-term recovery efforts to promote individual and community resilience.
The latest HHS Disaster Behavioral Health Concept of Operations (CONOPS) reflects this intricately woven whole community approach to resilience that includes voluntary organizations, government, academia, and behavioral health care and professional organizations. The CONOPS goes beyond a traditional CONOPS.
The CONOPS aims to improve coordination of federal preparedness, response, and recovery efforts concerning behavioral health in a manner consistent with—and supportive of— state, territorial, tribal and local efforts.
The CONOPS is meant to be easy for agencies and organizations outside HHS to use. For these partners and for response agencies less familiar with the overall field of behavioral health, the CONOPS includes conceptual language to frame disaster behavioral health, in addition to discussing federal disaster behavioral health operational response and recovery.
The newest CONOPS adds a checklist of key disaster behavioral health activities and indicates the definitive action to be taken. New sections describe disaster behavioral health considerations and roles through each phase of the emergency, from readiness to long-term recovery. This CONOPS builds on past versions and leverages experience with the most recent emergency response and recovery operations.
Have your agency or community found ways to incorporate behavioral health into emergency preparedness, response, and recovery? Share your experiences in a comment to this blog.
Authors: Kevin Horahan and Tara Holland, Emergency Care Coordination Center (ECCC), HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
Getting a complete and accurate picture of a patient’s medical history is a challenge under normal circumstances, but it is even more difficult – and even more important - in an emergency. Take, for example, a fairly common occurrence. A woman falls and breaks her arm. Someone calls 9-1-1 and an ambulance arrives. An emergency medical technician (EMT) or paramedic provides treatment and transports her to the emergency department (ED) where she gets an x-ray and a cast. After leaving the ED, she follows up with an orthopedic surgeon and receives treatment from a physical therapist.
Each of these providers creates a record, and there’s a pretty good chance those records are electronic. However, in many cases – and for emergency medical services (EMS) it’s virtually all cases - these systems aren’t integrated, making it difficult to get a complete picture of the patient’s medical history or health needs.
But what exactly does a connected and interoperable emergency care system look like?
This was a question posed to a group of members from the EMS, emergency care, and health information technology (HIT) communities at a meeting hosted earlier this month by ASPR’s Emergency Care Coordination Center in conjunction with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
EMS is both the gateway to and an integral part of the healthcare system. Currently, few EMS systems are connected to a health information exchange or other electronic health/medical records system. There are many challenges to sharing of EMS data, including funding, proprietary systems, and a lack of collaboration.
It’s our hope that EMS will become a full participant in the electronic exchange of health information. This would entail the regular and secure two-way exchange between EMS and other health care facilities and payers.
Improving the current system will lead to more efficient transitions of care, more fully integrate EMS into the health care system, and provide better patient outcomes and experiences. It will also improve resilience in the face of disasters and other disruptions of our healthcare system.
During the meeting, members of the EMS and HIT communities openly discussed their experiences and successes, while identifying innovative ideas, potential business use cases and pilot projects for the future. Attendees also identified current challenges and issues and brainstormed solutions related to the incorporation of HIT in the pre-hospital environment.
As a result of this stakeholder engagement, we are excited to announce that the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response is launching the ASPR Collaboration Community campaign on IdeaScale.
The community’s first campaign, Health Information Technology and EMS, is focused on the issue of health information technology in the pre-hospital environment. It provides interested stakeholders a place to connect and continue the discussion on issues and successes surrounding connectivity to the new health information exchanges.
You can access the collaboration community at www.phegov.ideascale.com to participate in our first campaign. Please check out our current campaign and subscribe to this campaign to receive updates as new ideas are posted.
Please note: The ASPR Collaboration Community IdeaScale website is not for the purpose of advising ASPR or the U.S. government. Rather, it is available for all as a means to share insights and experiences so that others might benefit from those experiences and the resulting knowledge.
Author: Julie Schafer, Project Officer, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
In the event of a severe influenza pandemic, the global need for vaccine would far outstrip current production capacity. To address this gap between potential need and capacity to meet the need, the BARDA International Influenza Vaccine Manufacturing Capacity Building Program has used smart investments and strong partnerships to support thirteen influenza vaccine manufacturers in twelve low- to middle-income countries to enhance their capacity to produce influenza vaccine. In 2005, vaccine producers in these countries, collectively, could produce less than one million doses of pandemic influenza vaccine. Today, vaccine producers in these countries have a combined pandemic influenza vaccine production capacity of over 280 million doses, on track for the program goal of a production capacity for 500 million doses of vaccine by 2016.
Expanding and diversifying worldwide influenza vaccine manufacturing capacity may reduce the global threat of pandemic influenza, provide international stability and security, and reduce demand for the United States to produce and distribute limited supplies of vaccine outside the country during a public health emergency.
BARDA has partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO), PATH, US- based and international universities, and other HHS agencies to develop and implement this program. In recognition of the considerable challenge of developing sustainable influenza vaccine manufacturing capacity, BARDA uses a three-pronged approach: 1) expanding vaccine manufacturing capacity through the WHO Global Action Plan to increase vaccine supply, which has supported thirteen manufacturers in twelve under-resourced countries; 2) ensuring a skilled workforce through biomanufacturing training programs at two US-based universities and through on-site training; 3) providing in-country technical implementation assistance to complement and reinforce training and to provide targeted clinical trial and manufacturing technical assistance to manufacturers with influenza vaccines nearing eligibility for licensure. BARDA also supports efforts to make new vaccine technologies available to these manufacturers.
BARDA’s International Influenza Vaccine Manufacturing Capacity Building Program has, in a short time, contributed to a significant change in the global influenza vaccine landscape. Since the program’s inception in 2006, four pandemic and three seasonal vaccines have been registered for used by National Regulatory Authorities including the recent approval of a Serum Institute of India seasonal Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (LAIV) in India. Two pandemic and one seasonal vaccine have been prequalified by WHO, which enables potential use in other countries, thus creating the potential for regional pandemic response capabilities.
BARDA’s efforts to increase international influenza vaccine manufacturing capacity are a complement to its ongoing domestic pandemic influenza vaccine capacity building. These initiatives have contributed to a dramatic increase in the global influenza vaccine production capacity critical to pandemic response. For more information, see BARDA’s Pandemic Influenza Program.
New framework helps companies and government better manage and communicate cyber risk
Author: By Steve Curren, ASPR Critical Infrastructure Protection Program Manager
In the health industry, the rapidly evolving world of IT offers new ways for doctors and patients to interact. We’re finding better ways to maintain business records, creating more accurate patient records, and using smart medical devices. Public health departments throughout the nation leverage IT technology to identify food safety concerns, track disease outbreaks, and transmit critical information for laboratory tests. Yet, this increased use of the Internet and reliance upon computer networks carries some unique risks for the health care and public health community. v
In some businesses, a hacker can disrupt the business, inconvenience the community, and steal business ideas and people’s identities. These data breaches can cost of millions of dollars. One study found that these incidents cost health care providers more than $1.6 billion a year; 61 percent of global health care organizations surveyed in that study had experienced a security-related incident in the form of a security breach, data loss, or unplanned downtime at least once in the previous 12 months.
In the healthcare and public health sector there’s an additional cost: health itself. A hacker can tamper with medical devices; change test results; prevent a health department from receiving or transmitting crucial data about disease outbreaks, or interrupt the software for analyzing images. Data breaches in the health industry also run the risk of damaging the community’s trust which, in turn, can impact people’s personal health care decisions.
So, what should government do about this? We can work together with private industry to prevent it. That’s what a new voluntary cybersecurity framework is all about. The framework was released yesterday and was called for in presidential executive order 13636. The executive order on improving cybersecurity for our nation’s critical infrastructure was released last year, along with presidential policy directive 21 on critical infrastructure security and resilience, to create more coordinated approach to infrastructure security and resilience before, during and after a cyber crisis.
The new framework provides non-regulatory standards to guide the way private industry approaches cybersecurity. In the health sector, these voluntary standards can help healthcare providers, medical manufacturers and distributors, laboratories and the vast array of partners help keep our nation’s healthcare system up and running. State and local agencies can use the framework to protect public health department IT systems, too.
Government agencies and representatives from private industry, including the healthcare sector, worked together to create the framework. The framework uses a common language to discuss cyber risks and offers ways to address and manage cyber risk in a cost-effective way. The approach is based on business needs and doesn’t require any new regulations.
The framework recognizes business drivers – like being able to provide services to patients throughout an emergency situation, potential profit loss and loss of patients’ trust from security breaches – and used these business drivers to guide the steps the health sector and other industries take for cybersecurity. The framework also shows how to manage cyber risks as part of all the other “business” risks managed by healthcare providers and public health agencies.
Taking action to secure IT networks is a concern for organizations and businesses of any size, not just for large corporations, so the framework is flexible and can be adapted to different types of businesses from a physician’s office to a nursing home to a large pharmaceutical company. The interconnectedness of our computer systems may mean that a person or company you aren’t even aware of poses a threat to your computer networks. So by adopting the framework, partners large and small, urban and rural, public and private, help further secure our nation’s critical infrastructure.
If you are a physician’s office, an independent assisted living facility, or small pharmacy, the framework can provide you with a roadmap for how to get started in securing your computers and networks. If you are a large pharmaceutical company, nationwide pharmacy company, or a hospital/healthcare system, the framework can help you be sure you have done all that you need to do, and it can help you communicate cyber risks to your leaders and suppliers.
We used the framework’s approach to working together and sharing information to manage a real-life cyber security risk for medical devices in hospitals last summer. Check out our blog on it. And read through the new framework to see how it can help make your networks and systems more secure and resilient. You can learn more about cybersecurity for the healthcare and public health sector at http://www.phe.gov/preparedness/planning/cip/Pages/default.aspx.
Author: CAPT Robert J. Tosatto, Director, Division of the Civilian Volunteer Medical Reserve Corps
On the third Monday of January, we honor the legacy, heroism, and patriotism of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with the MLK Day of Service. On this day, we pause to honor what he gave to his country through his words and actions. Now, we also pause and come together to give of ourselves and to improve our communities. As part of a community that is interested in emergency preparedness and response, you may wonder how your talents could serve your town, city, or county. The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is a national network of locally based volunteers, organized and committed to strengthening public health, improving emergency response capabilities, and building the resiliency of their communities. The MRC offers one important way to serve. This means that you can volunteer in your area to make strides to improving its’ capabilities and capacities – while using your talents in the medical, public health, emergency management, or other fields.
The MRC network is supported by the Division of the Civilian Volunteer Medical Reserve Corps in the Office of the Surgeon General, and currently includes more than 206,000 volunteers in almost 1,000 units nationwide. These volunteers come from all walks of life, and have a variety of skills, experiences, and backgrounds to contribute, but they share a common goal and desire to strengthen the community through their selfless service. The volunteers are identified, credentialed, screened, trained and begin their service before a disaster strikes so that they are ready and able to serve when needed. Whether involved in diabetes detection clinics; educational classes on family preparedness; drive-thru influenza vaccinations; first aid and CPR training; table top exercises; or response to an emergency incident, the MRC is integrated into the local health, preparedness and response structure.
MRC units and volunteers have shown their value time and again. Since its inception in 2002 following the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the anthrax attacks that followed, MRC volunteers have been giving selflessly to protect, prepare, and respond to many types of hazards. For example, when over 250 MRC volunteers supported the Boston Marathon, most of them assumed that they would just need to provide routine care to runners and spectators. Some MRC volunteers were there as a part of the BAA Injured Runner Tracking Team at the finish line, while others worked in first aid stations and assisted with HAM radio operations along the course. The nature of their mission changed in an instant when two improvised explosive devices detonated near the Boston Marathon finish line. Following the explosions, some of them saw blast injuries, severe burns and traumatically amputated limbs. While they certainly did not expect the explosions, they were prepared and capable of delivering life-saving first aid and helping to transport the injured. After the initial response, MRC volunteers also assisted in staffing shelters for stranded runners and providing mental health services to those affected. What at first seemed to be another day at the race, turned into a rush to save lives and support those in need. The MRC unit leaders’, the MRC volunteers’, and the other responders’ actions that day clearly indicate a high level of training and personal resiliency, in the face of obvious uncertainty and upheaval.
MRC volunteers serve a vital role in the response to natural disasters as well. During Hurricane Sandy, more than 150 MRC units reported preparedness and response activities related to this storm. Some units supported general, functional, or special needs shelters, often alongside partners from the American Red Cross. Units also provided health education, emergency communications support, and surge staffing to local hospitals, emergency management agencies, and public health departments. These volunteers donated more than 35,000 hours of service, and many other units within the affected regions reported that they had more volunteers who were ready and willing to assist if needed. Additionally, some units not affected by Hurricane Sandy used it as an opportunity to perform call-down and notification drills as part of their preparedness planning.
MRC units have also played an important role in preventing the spread of pandemic influenza. MRC units work with their local public health officials and plan on ways that they can best serve should a pandemic strike their local communities. These plans were put in action in the spring of 2009. As cases of H1N1 Influenza began spreading across the United States, MRC units rapidly mobilized to meet their communities’ needs. Almost 50,000 volunteers in 600 MRC units (approximately 70% of all MRC units) assisted in over 2,500 H1N1-related activities in 2009-2010. Hundreds of thousands of Americans received their H1N1 immunizations, and many more learned about flu prevention and care, from MRC volunteers.
I urge you to consider this important thought from Dr. King, “Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'” No matter where or in what capacity you volunteer, it will provide a powerful experience for you and a tremendous benefit for those you serve. I encourage you to gather your friends, family, colleagues and neighbors in a shared mission to improve the lives of those around you. Each person has something to give, and every community has a person, group, or issue in need of help.
To find contact information for your local Medical Reserve Corps – to volunteer, partner, or promote – visit www.medicalreservecorps.gov and search by your city or zip code. You can also connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.
Author: By Marcienne Wright, Science Policy Advisor, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
After a disaster, people look for the best ways to recover and move on with their lives. In hard-hit areas recovery can take years, and community members must decide how to rebuild their healthcare systems and their entire communities in ways that respond better, recover more quickly, and withstand future disasters.
Often, these kinds of decisions are based on past experience or lessons learned from other communities. There is a pressing need for solid scientifically based research to help communities make decisions with confidence.
That’s why, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, three HHS agencies – ASPR, CDC, and NIEHS – awarded a series of research grants to give hard hit communities data to drawn on as they make tough decisions about how to recover effectively from Hurricane Sandy and how to strengthen their resilience for future disaster preparedness in the process.
This week these three agencies did something pretty unusual — we convened a meeting with this group of grantees who will be researching public health, environmental health and healthcare in Sandy-impacted communities along with their public health and community partners. The meeting’s goal was to encourage grantees to explore opportunities for collaboration at the beginning, rather than at the end, of their projects.
Our grantees and their research partners were wildly enthusiastic. Distinct groups of researchers now want to work together to better support community needs in Sandy-impacted areas, do better science without duplication, and advance scientific knowledge on building resilience in these communities.
Researchers working in and collaborating with health departments in New York City, New Jersey, and Long Island discovered that, for some questions about the causes of increased mortality, they are using similar methods to create their datasets. Because of this meeting, they learned that there is an opportunity for them to now collaborate on this aspect of their research.
Steelworkers and other unions working with NIEHS on worker safety and clean up offered to collaborate with healthcare system response researchers on ways to strengthen healthcare worker resilience. Bringing groups like these together holds exciting possibilities.
We appreciate the willingness of everyone at the meeting to share information on their research projects and to explore taking a new and collaborative approach to advancing science, recovery, and resilience.
The research being conducted in Sandy-impacted communities is an example of what’s needed to support the decisions that communities across the country must make after disasters and every day – decisions about infrastructure, policies, procedures, partnerships, coalitions, and funding that drive your community’s resilience.
A better understanding of the science supporting response and recovery is absolutely needed for communities across the country – including yours – to become as ready and resilient as possible so that health stands up to disaster.
Sharing the information gained from this research with the impacted community and the nation is vital to building a country that is resilient to whatever comes our way. These projects as well as future studies initiated by the scientific community hold tremendous potential to bring people together to talk about tough decisions and difficult topics. A bonus to bringing people together for research purposes is that the action can lead to new coalitions, new partnerships and in turn stronger communities.
Potential researchers: think about it; by pursuing this line of inquiry you could help strengthen the health security of our entire nation. To learn about the projects underway now, visit www.hhs.gov/sandy.
Authors: By Sara Smith and Kelly Bennett, Division of Fusion, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
If you want to know what’s going on in a community, just listen to the community. That’s the advice given in a recent paper published in Public Library of Science (PLOS) Currents: Disasters and authored by a team of researchers from ASPR, HealthMap and NIH. This may seem like simple advice but in the midst of a response it can be easy to forget that local news reporters and citizens know their neighborhoods and communities best.
In the article, The Perfect Storm of Information: Combining Traditional and Non-Traditional Data Sources for Public Health Situational Awareness during Hurricane Response, researchers reviewed tweets, news reports, press releases, and federal situation reports sent during Hurricane Isaac and analyzed them for relevancy and timeliness. Researchers wanted to find out if non-traditional data (i.e., tweets and news reports) fill a void in traditional data reporting during hurricane response, as well as whether non-traditional data improve the timeliness for reporting identified issues of concern.
During Hurricane Isaac, analysts monitored social and news media in near real-time for information relevant to HHS Essential Elements of Information (EEI). Throughout the course of the storm, 143 tweets and news articles were tagged as containing information that was potentially relevant to the public health response. These 143 tweets and news reports were used as the initial data set for this paper. Researchers compared the reporting and timeliness of these events to their appearance in more traditional forms of reporting including federal situation reports and local government press releases.
The study found that when looking for critical situational awareness in the midst of a hurricane response, go local. Citizen tweets were responsible for almost all reports of environmental hazards, while local government was the only source of carbon monoxide reports. Additionally, local news consistently provided fatality reporting ahead of official federal reports. In all circumstances where citizens were reporting along with other sources, the citizen tweet was the earliest notification of the event.
Critical information is being shared by citizens, news organizations, and local government representatives. Enhanced situational awareness can help provide timelier, life-saving public health and medical response following a hurricane. This study indicates that non-traditional data sources should supplement traditional data sources and can fill some of the gaps in traditional reporting. During a hurricane response where early event detection can save lives and reduce injuries and illness, tweets can provide a source of information for early warning.
Interested in learning more? Check out the full article, The Perfect Storm of Information: Combining Traditional and Non-Traditional Data Sources for Public Health Situational Awareness during Hurricane Response.
Author: Darryl J. Madden, Director, Ready Campaign
For many, the New Year is a time for setting goals and making new resolutions for the year to come. If you are anything like me, each year you find yourself resolving to achieve a healthier lifestyle - eating right, exercising more, losing a few pounds.
Setting personal health goals in the New Year is great, but improving overall well-being involves taking actions to be prepared. Knowing what to do in an emergency is vital to the health and safety of you and your loved ones.
This year, the Ready Campaign is challenging you to be Prepared in 2014. Start the New Year by connecting with family and friends on the importance of preparedness. Not only can the information shared potentially save a life; connecting with those you love has an added benefit. People who have strong social connections tend to be healthier and more resilient.
I know the hardest part of keeping a resolution is sustaining it after those first few weeks of the year, but you don’t have to do it all at once.
First, start by simply having the conversation: who to call, where to meet and what to pack in an emergency.
Build your family’s emergency supply kit by picking up recommended emergency items over the first month or two of the year.
Create a preparedness checklist. This should include things such as emergency phone numbers and copies of important documents, and information on how to register for programs such as the American Red Cross Safe and Well website.
Set reminders throughout the year to talk about and update your family emergency communication plan. If you have children, include them in conversations and planning activities. The Ready Campaign has age-appropriate tools and resources you can use to introduce disaster preparedness to them. And you can learn more about talking with kids after disasters so you’re ready to help them through tough situations.
Have pets? Make sure they are a part of your planning process. Create a pet go-bag to help keep them safe during an emergency. Find helpful tips from FEMA on how to plan for your furry friends.
Older adults often have special needs in a disaster and may depend on medications or other special requirements. If older adults are a part of your social connection, be sure to include them in your preparedness planning efforts.
Emergencies can and will happen, but being ready can minimize the impact they have on the overall well-being of you and your family.
This year, make disaster preparedness part of your New Year’s resolution. On January 1st 2014, join the Resolve To Be Ready Thunderclap to promote a message of preparedness to your social connections on New Year’s Day. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #Prepared2014 whenever you discuss family preparedness on Twitter.
Author: Ashley Small, Public Affairs Specialist,Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
The holidays can be a busy time. Between work, school, holiday events with family and friends, and shopping for that perfect gift; there is little room to focus on emergency preparedness. For many, this is a season of holiday preparedness - but not necessarily emergency preparedness.
Yet being prepared can help protect health when it’s needed most. So this holiday season, while you are making a list and checking it twice; consider adding something unexpected to your list of gifts for love ones… consider giving them the gift of preparedness.
It’s important to be prepared during the winter. With the threat of extreme low temperatures and winter storms; having the right emergency supplies on hand can make all the difference in keeping safe, warm, and a maybe even little healthier this season.
Emergency preparedness items such as first-aid kits, battery-operated lamps and lanterns, hand-cranked radios, and solar charging units make great gifts and stocking stuffers for friends and family. Most of these items fall short of being on the everyday household shopping list, but in emergencies like prolonged power failure, they are invaluable.
Items such as shovels, ice scrapers, cell-phone chargers, booster cables, emergency flares, and portable blankets are excellent starter gifts to help build winter emergency car kits. Not only are they are handy when traveling in adverse weather; they serve as a simple reminder that preparedness is a way of life and no emergency is too big or too small to prepare for.
If buying gifts is not your thing, that’s okay. You can still give the gift of preparedness by just simply starting the conversation. Take a moment with your family and friends to talk about preparedness and how they can stay safe and healthy this season. Be sure to include tips on how to plan for older adults, pets, and handling chronic conditions that require medication, like diabetes.
For more information on building an emergency kit or starting a conversation about preparedness, check out CDC or Ready.gov.
Have other thoughts on how you can make preparedness a part of this season? Please share them with us in a comment to the blog.
Authors: Pattama Ulrich, Program Manager; Jose Fernandez; and Rachel Kleinberg, Division of International Health Security, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
|The holiday season and holiday-related travel are taking off globally, impacting not only individuals, but also the public health emergency response capacity of services and infrastructures that keeps travelers safe. As more people travel to visit their loved ones, emerging and infectious diseases such as influenza viruses with pandemic potential have a greater opportunity to spread rapidly throughout our crowded and interconnected world.
Mr. Alim Hayatou, third from the right, delivers opening remarks at the workshop. Photo: Pattama Ulrich
Since 2006, as part of its pandemic influenza preparedness and global health security strategies, the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) has partnered with the Institut Pasteur to address pandemic influenza preparedness gaps in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia and to enhance the implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR ). As part of this partnership, the Division of International Health Security (DIHS) , within ASPR, collaborated with local and international stakeholders to hold the five-day Central Africa Workshop on Preparedness for Pandemic Influenza and Respiratory Diseases in the Context of the International Health Regulations from November 4-8, 2013, in Yaoundé, Cameroon. The workshop was hosted by Centre Pasteur in Cameroon (CPC), a public institution within the Ministry of Public Health.
Through this workshop, DIHS and the Institut Pasteur brought together Ministry of Health officials from Angola, Burundi, Chad, Sao Tome and Principe, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, and Senegal. Officials from these 11 countries—experts in National IHR Focal Point communications and laboratory and epidemiological surveillance—worked together to advance multi-disciplinary collaborations focused on pandemic preparedness during the workshop.
In addition to Ministry of Health officials who participated in the workshop, this event drew senior officials from national and international organizations. Mr. Alim Hayatou, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Public Health of Cameroon, delivered opening remarks on behalf of H.E. Andre Mama Fouda, Minister of Public Health of Cameroon.
Other notable participants included:
- Dr. Charlotte Ndiaye, WHO Representative to Cameroon
- Dr.Omotayo Bolu, CDC Country Director-Cameroon
- Dr. Guy Vernet, Director, CPC and Institut Pasteur International Network (IPIN)
- Dr. Jose Fernandez, Deputy Director, Division of International Health Security, ASPR
- Dr. Richard Njouom, Director, Virology Department, CPC
This five day workshop established a foundation for ongoing collaboration between ASPR, Institut Pasteur and its IPIN , World Health Organization’s Africa Regional Office, CDC, and partner countries’ Ministries of Health. It also demonstrated how a small program in ASPR can contribute to building national, regional, and international partnerships critical to improving global health security.
Crowded, cough-filled shopping malls and long plane rides ringing with sneezes are vivid reminders of how easy it is to spread diseases from one place to another, not just during the holiday season, but year-round. Whether in Yaoundé or Washington, D.C., emerging and infectious diseases – including viruses that have the potential to become pandemics – continue to impact national and global health security at unpredictable intervals and from unexpected sources. And that’s one reason that ASPR continues its work with international partners to enhance public health preparedness beyond our borders.