Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
With natural disasters, disease outbreaks, severe weather and other emergencies becoming more common and costly, the importance of enhancing national health security has never been greater. When disaster strikes, we want one basic question answered: is everyone okay? By enhancing national health security, we can increase the chances that people will be healthy and resilient, both physically and mentally, after a disaster.
National health security is a state in which the nation and its people are prepared for, protected from, and resilient in the face of disasters or emergencies with health consequences. Achieving national health security requires people and organizations to work together at every level. When disaster strikes, everyone plays a role in keeping the community healthy. Working together effectively requires a plan before a disaster strikes.
HHS published the first national plan to protect health in a disaster in 2009. Led by ASPR, the 2009 National Health Security Strategy and Implementation Plan established the first comprehensive national roadmap to prepare for, respond to, and recover from public health and health care emergencies.
ASPR published an update of the National Health Security Strategy in February 2015, which focused on five strategic objectives:
The strategy describes national – not federal –priorities for federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments; the private sector including health care coalitions; non-governmental organizations; academia; communities; and families and individuals. By working together, the nation can build community health resilience, strengthen and sustain preparedness and response systems, improve capabilities, and prioritize future resource investments.
The strategy emphasizes a community-based approach to health security recognizing that all communities face different hazards, have unique populations, and have different resources to enhance health security.
To achieve national health security, the nation must cultivate a culture of resilience and shift the perception from that of national health security as solely a government responsibility to national health security as a civic responsibility – a partnership among individuals, communities, and systems.
The strategy not only sets a strategic course, but also mobilizes action by traditional partners such as public health, health care, and emergency management, and non-traditional partners such as youth and youth groups and community-based and faith-based organizations.
Today, local health departments now compete in an awards program that recognizes their contributions to health security, including how they manage volunteers during disasters, how they involve young people, and how they build local partnerships.
The strategy will continue to chart the course for the nation to enhance health security and inspire and motivate people and whole communities to secure their health by taking action to prepare for public health and health care emergencies.
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