On Public Health Security - Preparedness, Policy, and Technology: How Recent Partnership Events are Helping CDC Get Ready for the Next Disaster

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May 2018

Note: This will be the final issue of On Public Health Security. To stay up to date on OPHPR’s work, please follow us on our social media outlets and through our Public Health Matters Blog. Links provided here.

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doctor Stephen C. Redd, MD

Dear Partners,

The past few months have presented many opportunities for us to come together and exchange perspectives on our nation’s emergency preparedness and response efforts. The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) annual Preparedness Summit connects us every year with preparedness leaders from across the country. A new initiative we started with the National Governor’s Association (NGA) brought us together with preparedness and policy leaders at the state level. In addition, a recent event hosted by the CDC Foundation is helping us kick-start collaborations with the business and tech communities. These events underscore the value of partnerships, particularly in helping CDC interact directly with a variety of sectors that can further advance the field of emergency preparedness and response.

NACCHO 2018 Preparedness Summit

Throughout this year’s Preparedness Summit, presenters from state and local health departments and federal and private partners shared their stories, expertise, and innovative ideas to prepare for the most dangerous threats. The opening presentation examined major disasters of 2017, including the severe hurricanes and wildfires. Moderated by Dr. Dan Sosin—the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (OPHPR) Deputy Director and Chief Medical Officer—the discussion brought together response leaders from California, Florida, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to share how communities across the country can apply lessons learned during these devastating events.

The closing presentation highlighted a relatively new topic, the undeniable health risk associated with cyber-attacks, and why this should be a priority area for preparedness efforts. Panelists discussed the public health impact of the WannaCry ransomware attack of May 2017. This attack affected more than 200,000 computers around the world, leading to thousands of cancelled medical appointments and affecting the administration of critical medicines, including those for chemotherapy. During this session, the speakers walked the audience through a tabletop exercise outlining the role of local public health departments during a cyber-attack.  

I enjoyed having the opportunity to address conference attendees in a presentation on strengthening the nation’s health security alongside Dr. Robert Kadlec, HHS’s Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and other federal preparedness and response partners. During the session, I emphasized how the success of a response in the first few hours of an event depends on planned and exercised local capabilities. I also stressed that our role at the federal level is to provide support that makes the response work of state, local, and territorial jurisdictions easier.

National Governor’s Association Workshop

CDC and the National Governors Association (NGA) hosted a multi-state workshop May 1-2 in Phoenix, Arizona for state leaders to examine preparedness challenges and explore potential solutions. Governors typically have a lead role in emergency responses, but may not have the specialized knowledge to address public health threats. This project brings together experts from across government to share perspectives and develop comprehensive, feasible solutions to address gaps and barriers in their preparedness capacity. Examples of challenges that states noted include crisis communications (both internal and with the public), staffing, and medical countermeasure distribution.

Each participating state assembled a core team of state government leaders who attended the two-day workshop, including preparedness directors, public health directors, legal counsels, and legislators. In addition to experts from CDC and NGA, experts from Arizona State University, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, and the National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO) provided teams with technical guidance to develop action plans for addressing policy barriers to effective and efficient emergency responses. State teams walked away with a better understanding of the legal issues surrounding public health emergencies and potential obstacles to moving resources quickly in a response, as well as ideas for addressing challenges related to surge capacity and information sharing. Next, participating states will share their action plans with their governors, receive support from NGA and CDC to implement it, and present their results to CDC leadership at the conclusion of the project. We anticipate holding another workshop next year to build on the great work of our partners.

Business and Tech Community Meeting

On March 26, CDC met with Silicon Valley businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area—along with community leaders and representatives from the technology and health sectors—to discuss innovative tech solutions for public health emergencies. The event, hosted by the CDC Foundation, the California Endowment, Kaiser Permanente, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, had nearly 100 participants. CDC’s Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat presented alongside tech leaders who outlined innovative uses of existing technologies, such as geographic information systems and Google SOS alerts. In closing, CDC Foundation President and CEO Dr. Judy Monroe discussed the importance of using innovative technology solutions to address real-world challenges. Participants from the technology and health sectors suggested ideas for collaboration, and we are in the process of moving some of those ideas to action.

It was a privilege for CDC to support these events, and I am proud of the work we are accomplishing together to help communities across the country prepare for and respond to public health emergencies.

Thank you,

Stephen C. Redd, MD
RADM, USPHS
Director, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Upcoming Events


May is Hepatitis Awareness Month. CDC and its public health partners are working to raise awareness of viral hepatitis and encourage testing for at-risk populations. Here are some resources for ideas on how to participate.


Connect with more than 1,500 public health epidemiologists from across the country at the 2018 Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) Annual Conference, taking place June 10-14 in West Palm Beach, Florida.


Attend the 2018 National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) Annual Education Conference (AEC) & Exhibition and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Healthy Homes Conference taking place June 25-28 in Anaheim, California.


Connect with local health department leaders and other public health professionals at the 2018 National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO) Annual Conference, taking place July 10-12 in New Orleans, Louisiana.


Additional Resources


CDC recently released the 2016 National Report of Medical Countermeasure Readiness. The report summarizes results from 487 operational readiness reviews evaluating the ability of state, local and territorial health departments to distribute and dispense medical countermeasures in a large response.


CDC has a new Emergency Partners Information Connection (EPIC) website. The site provides visitors convenient access to emergency public health information and resources.


See the latest update on the multistate outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections linked to chopped romaine lettuce.


See the latest update on the multistate outbreak of Salmonella Braenderup infections linked to eggs.


A recent Public Health Matters Blog post highlights CDC’s latest effort in the fight against the opioid overdose epidemic, including the Rx Awareness campaign. This campaign aims to increase awareness about the risks of prescriptions opioids and prevent their inappropriate use.   


See the recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), entitled “Progress toward Polio Eradication – Worldwide, January 2016-March 2018.”


centers for disease control and prevention - office of public health preparedness and response

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