As we begin a new year, one of the Office of Public Health and Preparedness and Response’s (PHPR) top priorities is continued emphasis on building resilience to keep communities safe. Resilient communities are able to withstand and recover from adversity because they have the resources and knowledge to care for themselves and others in routine and emergency situations. PHPR is tasked with strengthening and supporting health security to save lives and protect against public health threats. Our office plays a major role in CDC’s support of public health security worldwide which includes community resiliency. Allow me to highlight a few examples of how PHPR and our national partners have come together to build partnerships and promote resilience.
The National Health Security Strategy
CDC and PHPR contributed to the 2009 National Health Security Strategy (NHSS), our country’s framework for building community resilience and strengthening and sustaining health and emergency response systems. To ensure the NHSS remains reflective of progress made, environmental changes, and stakeholder engagement, the Office of Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response in the Department of Health and Human Services is leading CDC and other partners in an effort to update the NHSS in 2014. Community resilience will continue to be an essential part of this strategy.
Community Health Resilience Initiative
For the past year, PHPR has been involved in a Community Health Resilience (CHR) Initiative, which is a collaborative project sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Office of Health Affairs (OHA). An initiative that includes both public and private-sector partners, its purpose is to strengthen and enhance community health resilience across the nation. The goals of the initiative are to develop a CHR Planning Guide and a Resource Toolkit for use by organizations that have roles and missions in assuring public health and safety. This effort is guided by a group of practitioners and experts from all levels of government and stakeholder organizations, including those involved in public health, healthcare, emergency management, and other related areas.
Plans for Dispensing Medication During an Emergency
One of the requirements of CDC's Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) cooperative agreement is for states and localities to develop plans for receiving, distributing, and dispensing medication from the Strategic National Stockpile, a national repository of critical medication and supplies that is available to supplement state and local resources during a public health emergency. Local public health departments have plans for dispensing medication at locations within their communities. Typically these locations are in public places (e.g., schools, arenas, etc.) and are referred to as open points of dispensing (PODs). Last year, we highlighted an effort in which CDC, two "big box" retailers, and local public health departments began a pilot to establish “closed” PODs to make medication available to company employees during an emergency. This will help the companies continue to operate during a difficult time, with employees likely returning to normal duties more quickly, a prime example of community resilience. These closed PODs also provide advantages to the entire community, reducing pressure on existing, open PODs, with fewer people in line waiting to get their medication.
The activities that I mention above are a few ways that community resilience is being strengthened. PHPR will continue to work with partners in a variety of ways to build stronger, scalable systems with a robust infrastructure so that communities are able to marshal resources and rapidly respond in an emergency. Building resilience includes scaling up essential public health functions at all levels of government, as well as making sure the public has a strong sense of purpose, strengthening health, safety, and protection through constructive support. As a goal of 2014, let’s strive to ensure our communities are as prepared as possible.
Ali S. Khan, MD MPH
Assistant Surgeon General (retired) & Director
Office of Public Health Preparedness & Response
DHHS/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention