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January 27
The Role of Public-Private Partnerships in National Health Security

When it comes to national health security, creating new partnerships between private organizations and public entities is a key priority. These public-private partnerships (PPPs) often work to support health security efforts in new ways that can support communities in need, especially during or after a disaster event.

With 90 percent of critical health infrastructure operated by the private sector, creating new partnerships for public health organizations that can support preparedness and response planning is vital for creating truly health secure communities.

A public health partnership is defined as a relationship between a public agency, such as the city’s health department and a private sector entity like a local hospital, physician’s office, or non-profit organization. As a result of establishing these partnerships with private groups, public health and medical professionals and their organizations can benefit from greater participation in the delivery or financing of projects.

PPPs can also have advantages such as reducing development risk, mobilizing underused resources, adopting models, improving service to the community, and increasing cost effectiveness. The threats and risks that these partnerships guard against are diverse—severe weather, infectious disease, terrorist attacks—and the health impacts of them can vary greatly.

Here is one unique story that demonstrates the incredible value that PPPs can have in strengthening our nation’s health security, ensuring that citizens are prepared for, protected from, and resilient in the face of incidents with health consequences.

Public-Private Partnership Story: Amtrak Derailment

In May 2015, an Amtrak train enroute from Washington D.C. to New York City derailed, injuring more than 200 passengers. The large number of critical patients that came from this event made local health organizations aware of their need for a coordinated and regional approach to preparedness. Fortunately, the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP), the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DoH), and the HPP-funded regional health care coalition had long been working together to prepare local health care systems for disasters that could cause a surge in patients.

HPP guidance, planning, and systems helped distribute notifications of emergency room capacity, facilitated communication, and enhanced patient tracking and triaging to help people get the care that they needed. Because the partnership was in place before the train derailed, the partners were ready to protect health and save lives when seconds counted.

Even as emergency crews were still on the ground searching for survivors, local health care facilities, EMS, and emergency management agencies, all members of the HPP-supported health care coalition, were already in action, working together to facilitate a swift, coordinated response. The health care coalition members in Pennsylvania collaborated to ensure that each member of their coalition had the necessary medical equipment and supplies, real-time information, communication systems, and trained health care personnel to respond to public health emergencies, including large scale accidents like the Amtrak train derailment. The operational response of health care coalition members, along with their systems and training, allowed for an effective response within an organized incident command structure, saving lives, improving care, and increasing accountability.

Read more about the Hospital Preparedness Program to explore other partnerships and learn about available tools and resources. For more information on national health security, visit


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