Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the National Health Security Strategy?
A: The National Health Security Strategy (NHSS, 2009) is the first comprehensive strategy focused on the Nation’s goal of protecting people’s health in the case of a large-scale incident that puts health and well-being at risk. The NHSS defines and describes a vision of national health security. It contains two goals, ten Strategic Objectives, and operational capabilities necessary to achieve that vision. The NHSS complements and supports key national security documents and policies (e.g., National Security Strategy (May 2010); Quadrennial Homeland Security Review Report: A Strategic Framework for a Secure Homeland (February 2010); Preparedness Policy Directive-8 (March 2011)).
Q: What is national health security?
A: National health security is a state in which the Nation and its people are prepared for, protected from, and resilient in the face of health threats or incidents with potentially negative health consequences.
Q: What are the goals of the NHSS?
A: The goals of the NHSS are 1) build community resilience; and 2) strengthen and sustain health and emergency response systems.
Q: What are the Strategic Objectives of the NHSS?
The ten detailed Strategic Objectives that support the two national health security goals are: 1) Foster informed, empowered individuals and communities; 2)Develop and maintain the workforce needed for national health security; 3) Ensure situational awareness; 4) Foster integrated, scalable health care delivery systems; 5) Ensure timely and effective communications; 6) Promote an effective countermeasures enterprise; 7) Ensure prevention or mitigation of environmental and other emerging threats to health; 8) Incorporate post-incident health recovery into planning and response; 9) Work with cross-border and global partners to enhance national, continental, and global health security; and 10) Ensure that all systems that support national health security are based upon the best available science, evaluation, and quality improvement methods.
Q: How will the NHSS goals and vision be achieved?
A: Achieving national health security is a responsibility that must be broadly shared throughout society–by individuals, families, all sectors of communities, and governments. Therefore, all stakeholders can collaboratively use the common framework that the NHSS Strategic Objectives support. Implementation plans prioritize activities to facilitate coordinated efforts to build and sustain the operational capabilities necessary for national health security. While certain implementation plan activities might be more relevant to particular agencies, sectors, communities, or disciplines, the NHSS’ philosophy applies to everyone. All individuals should be able to use the NHSS and implementation plans to guide everyday planning efforts. Ongoing measurement will be used to evaluate improvements in operational capabilities and progress toward national health security.
Q: How does the NHSS impact other policy and programs?
A: Policies, programs, budgets and activities will be aligned to the NHSS Strategic Objectives. Thus, resources and evidence-based activities are leveraged (through policies and programs) to facilitate and maximize progress toward national health security.
Q: Is there a statutory requirement for the NHSS?
The Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-417) requires that ". . . every 4 years the Secretary of HHS [shall] submit to Congress a comprehensive national health security strategy.”
Q: Why and how was the NHSS developed? Were other federal and non-federal departments and agencies involved in the development of the NHSS? What about non-federal partners?
A: One common national vision was needed to achieve national health security; however, prior to the NHSS, one did not exist. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) convened intra- and inter-Departmental working groups to shape the NHSS. This was particularly important because national health security is dependent on a broad range of skill sets, disciplines and knowledge beyond health and social services. Additionally, regional workshops were held to obtain community and non-federal partner input and stakeholders. Presentations and listening sessions were held at national meetings.
Q: Where might I find the NHSS?
The NHSS can be found online at www.phe.gov/nhss.
Q: Since no funding accompanies the NHSS, how will it make a difference in national health security among states?
A: Achieving national health security requires coordinated resource strategies at all levels of government. Leveraged investments of time, effort, and expertise–not just financial resources–is needed among individuals, families, and communities (including private-sector, non-governmental, and academic organizations), and the full range of local, state, territorial, tribal, and federal governments.
It is the responsibility of local, state, territorial, tribal, and federal governments to provide guidance and facilitate collaboration and coordination among individuals, families, and communities, including the private sector, to implement strategies to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from an incident.
Q: How do we know whether or not we are prepared, what progress are we making, and what gaps remain?
A: Achieving national health security will require commitments to accountability and continuous quality improvement. Initial priority implementation actions include the development of valid, reliable, and feasible performance measures. ASPR will create an Evaluation Framework (EF) to guide future evaluations of progress as well as development of measures and tools.
Q: How is the NHSS being implemented?
A: The NHSS is being implemented by all sectors and levels of government through activities identified the NHSS Implementation Plan (IP, 2012). These activities were outlined initially in the Interim Implementation Guide (IIG, 2009) which was published concurrently with the NHSS. The Implementation Plan and the Implementation Guide are based on extensive stakeholder input—local, state and federal agencies, private industry, academia and non-governmental organizations.
Q: How is the government ensuring that progress is made?
A: Tracking IP implementation is an important input into an evaluation of progress that will be used to inform the vision, goals, strategic objectives, and implementation activities of the 2014 NHSS and 2014 IP. To track and evaluate progress, ASPR will collect data from the leads, co-leads, and partners (many of which are federal departments and agencies) responsible for implementing the 2012 IP activities.
Q: Will there be another NHSS?
A: Yes, a strategy will be released every four years based on progress data, [risk, policy, etc.] environmental changes, and stakeholder engagement. ASPR is institutionalizing a strategic planning and management process to ensure the goals and objectives are met. An evaluation of progress, as well as the next NHSS and IP, will be completed in December 2014.