HHS leads the Federal public health and medical emergency response to acts of terrorism or nature and to other public health and medical emergencies. ASPR is responsible for ensuring that HHS’s family of agencies work together to develop public health and medical preparedness and response capabilities and that they lead and coordinate the relevant activities of the HHS operating divisions.
Preparedness strategies focus on ensuring that individuals, families, vulnerable populations, and communities are prepared for public health emergencies and disasters. Response strategies focus on promoting resiliency and responsibility in communities and among the citizenry in response to a public health emergency.
These strategies include:
Developing and using policies and plans. HHS is developing national and Departmental policies and plans for response to public health and medical threats and emergencies. Areas of planning include developing and maintaining the National Health Security Strategy, a coordinated strategy, and the implementation plan for public health emergency preparedness and response that includes an evaluation of progress of Federal, State, local, and tribal entities, based on evidence-based benchmarks and objective standards that measure levels of preparedness. This response also includes developing a strategic plan to integrate biodefense and emerging infectious disease requirements with advanced research and development, strategic initiatives for innovation, and the procurement of qualified countermeasures (within the purview of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA11).
Aligning resources and building partnerships. HHS is aligning Departmental entities to support the ASPR preparedness, prevention, and response mission and is building productive strategic partnerships—at the domestic and international levels, within the private and public sectors—to combat bioterrorism and other public health threats and emergencies.
Coordinating emergency preparedness and response activities. Activities include coordinating the acceleration of advanced research, development, and procurement of qualified countermeasures, including pandemic or epidemic products (within the purview of BARDA). HHS also coordinates public health and medical response systems with relevant Federal, State, local, and tribal officials and with the Emergency Medical Assistance Compact to ensure integration of preparedness and response activities for public health emergencies. HHS also works to ensure that the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS),12 the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC),13 and the Emergency System for Advanced Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP)14 are properly coordinated to maximize and streamline the response to public health emergencies.
Enhancing response personnel capacity. This process begins with establishing and maintaining a Medical Reserve Corps to provide for an adequate supply of volunteers in the case of a Federal, State, local, or tribal public health emergency. HHS is also developing core health and medical response curriculums and training to improve responses to public health emergencies.
Enhancing preparedness through leadership and support. HHS efforts enhance State and local public health and medical preparedness—primarily health departments and hospitals, providing expert medical, scientific, and public health leadership and advice. HHS also leads international programs, initiatives, and policies that deal with public health and medical emergency preparedness and response related to naturally occurring threats such as infectious diseases and deliberate threats from biologic, chemical, nuclear, and radiation sources. In addition, the Department awards contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements, or enters into other transactions, such as prize payments, to promote innovation in technologies that may assist countermeasures and produce advanced research and development; conducts research on and develops research tools and other devices and technologies; and supports research to promote strategic initiatives (within the purview of BARDA). HHS also awards competitive grants or cooperative agreements to support the improvement of surge capacity and enhancement of community and hospital preparedness for public health emergencies.
Protecting vulnerable populations. HHS ensures that State and local emergency plans include attention to persons with disabilities in all emergency management plans and responses.
Providing support in emergencies. HHS rapidly provides public health and medical support to Federal, State, local, and tribal incidents of national significance or public health and medical emergencies.
Establishing the Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise. HHS has developed a strategy for the Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise. The ultimate goal is to establish the foundational elements that will support medical countermeasure availability and utilization for the highest priority chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats facing the Nation.
Establishing a nationwide situational awareness. HHS is working to develop and implement a near-real-time electronic nationwide public health situational awareness capability through an interoperable network of systems to enhance early detection of, rapid response to, and management of potentially catastrophic infectious disease outbreaks and other public health emergencies.
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