As we come to the end of March, I am sure that you share my feeling of relief that a winter season full of snow and ice is coming to a close. The hard work of public health staff, emergency responders, and countless partners was as critical as ever these past few months. As this first quarter wraps up, I want to give you the complete picture of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (PHPR) 2014 priorities, so that you have a clear sense of our direction, as well as provide you with some examples of the work we have underway supporting these priorities. Our priorities for 2014 are 1) Innovation, 2) Building Resiliency and Global Health Security, and 3) Operational Efficiency and Effectiveness.
As we grapple with continuing resource constraints and see the state and local public health workforce impacted, innovative approaches are essential to improve public health and respond to future public health emergencies. PHPR must develop novel tools, programs, and activities to reach goals and improve our collaboration with partners to achieve better results. By leveraging our critical partnerships, utilizing new tools and media, and optimizing resources, PHPR will be able to accomplish our goals in new ways that are most efficient.
A great example of a current innovative strategy is CDCOLOGYTM . CDCOLOGYTM is a way for faculty (CDC employees) to post tasks, ranging between a couple minutes up to 7 hours, which can be solved by students. This innovation not only allows employees to focus on more complex work, but also exposes students to public health activities, potentially increasing their interest in public health as a profession. Another example of an innovative project is “CDC Red Sky,” a new real-time web-based situational awareness tool. This cross-agency project will allow programs to give critical updates to the CDC Director and other CDC leaders anytime, anywhere.
Building Resiliency and Global Health Security
I discussed resiliency in our January newsletter and global health security in our February issue. To address this critical priority and strengthen the ability of all communities to be ready to respond to emergencies, we are working to integrate preparedness into routine organization and community operations; build skills in affected populations; and develop policies to support recovery, rebuilding, and long-term community development. Please go to the January and February issues for examples of the work that is underway, and know that we will be sharing more with you about this critical priority as the year goes on.
Operational Efficiency and Effectiveness
In 2014, our office is again focused on minimizing redundancy and maximizing our staff and technology resources. By working smarter, we will be able to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve our effectiveness. An example of how we can maximize our workforce is by making sure that we have the experts on staff in critical areas that ensure a successful response. To that end, we have initiated the development of an education and career path professional development program for the Emergency Management Specialists series, 0089, that reflects national emergency management standards. PHPR and other federal partners championed this relatively new classification.
Another example of work underway for this priority directly addresses increasing efficiency. In the area of nationwide death surveillance, there is considerable room to improve the timely and accurate reporting of information. Unfortunately, the majority of the country relies on a labor-intensive, paper-based death certification process. With the goal of improving electronic death registration systems (EDRS) where they do exist and spurring their development where they do not, PHPR has joined the National Center for Health Statistics and various external partners to make a 5-year investment to enhance EDRS nationwide. Critical to enhancing our surveillance efforts, the ultimate goal is near real-time surveillance that allows public health officials and policy makers to use data to initiate actions, including investigations related to infectious disease, terrorism, emerging drug threats, clusters of suicide, injury-related deaths, and other emerging health threats.
Our priorities provide a framework for our continued work together. As always, I welcome your feedback and ideas. If you want to offer suggestions or assistance to support these priorities, please contact us (PHPRPartners@cdc.gov) with your ideas.
Ali S. Khan, MD MPH
Assistant Surgeon General (retired) & Director
Office of Public Health Preparedness & Response
DHHS/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention