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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Message from the Assistant Secretary

The United States has made significant progress in our ability to address large-scale incidents that threaten human health, thanks to the dedication of people throughout government and the nation who have met unforeseen challenges with resilience and commitment, and have built robust systems for preparedness, response, and recovery. The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response – ASPR – built on this tradition in our charge to lead the nation in public health and medical emergency preparedness, response, and recovery. In 2011 ASPR released a strategic plan to guide and benchmark progress toward our goals. At that time, we also committed to a mid-course review of the plan, both to check-in on our progress and to build on our successes and incorporate lessons learned. 

During our 2013 review, it became really clear just how far we and the country have come. Utilizing innovative advances in technology, we have new Medical Countermeasures (MCMs) in the pipeline and are stockpiled for influenza and a host of other threats. We have defined capabilities for health care system preparedness and have become more closely coordinated with public health and emergency management. Our federal response capability that supports states during disasters has worked in new ways: responding faster than ever; taking on broader missions tailored to community needs; and modernizing to become more nimble. We now have, and have used, a behavioral health Concept of Operations (CONOPS) to ensure that behavioral health needs (which are part of any disaster) are fully addressed. We’ve sparked and supported community-level innovation to help at-risk populations with special needs following a disaster. Importantly, many of our innovations have potential benefits outside of preparedness, to improve the systems that support people’s health and well-being every day. Each and every disaster impacts health, and over the past four years ASPR has developed a policy leadership role that has made sure that health issues are considered by national decision makers. We’ve begun an initiative to build the evidence base and improve how we conduct disaster-related science, and we are bringing to focus the resilience in both human and infrastructure elements.

There is still much work ahead of us. There are great opportunities for the health care system to help communities become more resilient with better planning for disasters. We must fully modernize response and tap into emerging trends in technology and communication. And we must help to build communities that are able to withstand adversity and better rebuild when disaster does strike. ASPR relies on a world class staff, and our strategic plan prioritizes investing in our people. Operationally, we will look toward sustainable strategies that maximize taxpayer dollars, can continue even in times of scarce resources, and as much as possible have a return on investment even if no disaster strikes. We will expect excellence and set an example in holding ourselves accountable as we encourage our partners across the nation to join us in our continuous improvement.

As in everything we do, from critical operations functions to health care system preparedness grants and policy coordination, ASPR will support transparency, decision making based on the best available evidence, and truly national approaches developed through broad engagement. Responsibility for preparedness must be shared across all levels of government and diverse communities, with members of the public as full and active participants in national health security. Similarly, we share a responsibility with our global partners to face those challenges that require international approaches to ensure a safer, healthier world. We affirm that the only way for our successes to gain traction and be sustained is for us to all work together in meaningful, inclusive, and equal partnership.

The ASPR mission is critical to the health and security of our nation. I’m honored and proud to serve with my ASPR colleagues, who every day find ways to innovate and serve the public with excellence and integrity. Working together with our partners, we will chart a course to build empowered communities, prepared systems, and a resilient nation.

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  • This page last reviewed: February 18, 2014