Margaret Hamburg, who President Obama nominated Commissioner of the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday, is the Secretary of the Board of Directors for the Trust For America’s Health (TFAH), a leading nonpartisan public-health advocacy organization. Late last year, TFAH, along with the Robert Wood Johnson, released their sixth annual report, Ready or Not? 2008: Protecting the Public’s Health from Disease, Disasters, and Bioterrorism, indicating that the current economic situation could have a significant impact on emergency preparedness both locally and nationally. (The report was published while this blog was on hiatus so I am glad to have the opportunity to mention it now.)
“The economic crisis could result in a serious rollback of the progress we’ve made since September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina to better prepare the nation for emergencies,” said Jeff Levi, PhD, Executive Director of TFAH. “The 25 percent cut in federal support to protect Americans from diseases, disasters, and bioterrorism is already hurting state response capabilities. The cuts to state budgets in the next few years could lead to a disaster for the nation’s disaster preparedness.”
The report also offers a series of recommendations for improving preparedness, including:
*Restoring Full Funding. At a minimum, federal, state, and local funding for public health emergency preparedness capabilities should be restored to FY 2005 levels.
*Strengthening Leadership and Accountability. The next administration must clarify the public health emergency preparedness roles and responsibilities at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
*Enhancing Surge Capacity and the Public Health Workforce. Federal, state, and local governments and health care providers must better address altered standards of care, alternative care sites, legal concerns to protect community assistance, and surge workforce issues.
*Modernizing Technology and Equipment. Communications and surveillance systems and laboratories need increased resources for modernization.
*Improving Community Engagement. Additional measures must be taken to engage communities in emergency planning and to improve protections for at-risk communities.
*Incorporating Preparedness into Health Care Reform and Creating an Emergency Health Benefit. This is needed to contain the spread of disease by providing care to the uninsured and underinsured Americans during major disasters and disease outbreaks.