June 8, 2012 – Yesterday the George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute's (HSPI) Preparedness, Response, and Resilience Task Force released its latest in a series of resilience reports entitled, "Public Health and Emergency Management: Challenges and Opportunities."
The federal government has taken steps toward improving public health preparedness since Hurricane Katrina exposed critical gaps, but it still faces several challenges, including synchronizing its grant programs, according to the report.
"While we have achieved much in preparing for an uncertain future of natural disasters and deliberate incidents, we have yet to reach the levels of preparedness required to fulfill our goal of resilience," Robert Kadlec, HSPI's Preparedness, Response, and Resilience Task Force, said in a statement.
In recent years, disaster response officials have seen that national resilience requires the integration of the public health and emergency management systems, the report said.
"The public health challenge will only grow as the population becomes more mobile and international borders become easier to cross," it said. "The threat of bioterrorism and the ever-present public health consequences of all-hazards disasters and emergencies will remain.
The report made several recommendations, including:
- Given the current tight fiscal environment, risk management organizations should make their decisions about grants and capital investments according to risk.
- The Department of Homeland Security should recognize the federal National Health Security Strategy as an essential component of homeland security strategy and emergency management doctrine.
- The Health and Human Services Department and DHS should better align their grant programs and develop incentives for resource-sharing partnerships and other initiatives that reduce federal costs while still enhancing state and local preparedness.
- DHS should better integrate public health preparedness and health care into the core capabilities of its National Preparedness Guidelines.
- DHS and HHS should collect, identify and aggregate public health risk data geographically, use that data to drive investment decisions and target funding to improve capabilities.
- The two departments should encourage programs and initiatives that create strong individual and community resilience capabilities.
"We are encouraged by positive efforts for cross-disciplinary collaboration and suggest that such efforts be leveraged for future progress," said Daniel Kaniewski, HSPI's Deputy Director. "To do this, policy and doctrine must align public health and emergency management efforts."