Public Health

7 Ways to Increase Public Health Preparedness

A new study warns of public health preparedness problems due to funding cuts and offers recommendations for government.

Since 9/11 state, local, territorial and tribal governments have received more than $36 billion in funds for equipment, training, preparedness and response for natural and man-made disasters. The funding helped improve the culture of preparedness nationwide but could change, especially in public health, as money becomes scarce.

A study, by researchers at George Washington University, the University of Southern California (USC) and the Cabarrus Health Alliance, warned of significant problems with the nation’s preparedness for public health emergencies and made seven recommendations:

1.    The federal government should develop and assess measures of emergency preparedness both at the community level and across communities in the U.S.

2.    Measures developed by the federal government should be used to conduct a nationwide gap analysis of community preparedness.

3.    Alternative ways of distributing funding should be considered to ensure all communities have the ability to build and sustain local coalitions to support sufficient infrastructure.

4.    When monies are released for projects, there should be clear metrics of grant effectiveness.

5.    There should be better coordination at the federal level, including funding and grant guidance.

6.    Local communities should build coalitions or use existing coalitions to build public-private partnerships with local hospitals and other businesses with a stake in preparedness.

7.    Communities should be encouraged to engage in ways to finance local preparedness efforts.

“With more limited government funding in the foreseeable future, the government needs to be smarter about how it spends its money on emergency preparedness in this country,” said Seth Seabury, associate professor of emergency medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at USC, in a statement. “We need to know which communities are prepared and which aren’t, when money is spent and whether it’s really making these communities better off in handling a disaster.”

The study, Value-Based Models for Sustaining Emergency Preparedness Capacity and Capability in the United States (PDF), was published by the Institute of Medicine Preparedness Forum.

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