By Sarah Getachew, NACCHO Program Analyst
In response to the 2001 anthrax and 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response created the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) program. The initiative aims to improve the daily capacity of state and local agencies to monitor and respond to public health emergencies. Since 2002, PHEP has provided more than nine billion dollars in funds to state, local and territorial public health systems to strengthening their ability to respond to and recover from public health threats such as emerging infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological and chemical events. Local health departments (LHDs) regularly use PHEP funding to develop frameworks and infrastructures that support preparedness and response activities and strengthen their preparedness capabilities.
Despite many of the public health preparedness advancements made using PHEP funding, as a result of recent budget cuts, many LHDs are losing the resources they need to effectively respond to public health emergencies. According to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), since 2005, federal funding for PHEP has decreased by more than 42 percent. This reduction severely decreases the sustainability of ongoing local preparedness activities.
To emphasize the importance of sustained PHEP funding and encourage state and local jurisdictions to talk to government leadership and other stakeholders about PHEP, ASTHO created the PHEP Communications Toolkit. The purpose of this resource is to:
- Increase awareness of the benefits and importance of PHEP funding as well as the need for sustained PHEP funding to national congressional representatives, local and state policymakers, and other key stakeholders;
- Demonstrate and communicate the success of PHEP funding in strengthening preparedness efforts in state and local health departments; and
- Respond to press inquiries about the impact cuts in PHEP funding.
This toolkit can be used by state, local and territorial preparedness directors and their staff to educate legislators about the importance of PHEP and establish community champions for PHEP. As a result, the public health preparedness community’s voice will be amplified, increasing awareness about the accomplishments made due to PHEP funding.
The toolkit is made up of the following components:
- Suggested Talking Points: A series of discussion points to educate audiences about the PHEP program, the program’s key accomplishments, and how sustaining funding helps keep communities safe.
- Summary Key Messages: Due to the limited time and availability of many legislators, these key messages are short, yet impactful statements that can be used to develop a PHEP program “elevator speech.”
- Sample Discussion Questions: A set of discussion questions to foster and continue discussion around PHEP funding with policymakers.
- Templates: Sample content, including templates for emails, social media messages, and success stories, that can be used to gain support from partner organizations and associations.
The full toolkit and other PHEP related promotional resources can be found on the ASTHO PHEP Impacts website, created to address the importance of communicating the impact of the PHEP program. NACCHO and ASTHO strongly encourage local and state health departments to take advantage of these resources and educate national leadership, local legislators and public health stakeholders about how PHEP continues to help strengthen community preparedness and resiliency.
Additional NACCHO Resources:
- Impact of Public Health Emergency Preparedness Funding on Local Public Health Capabilities, Capacity, and Response.
- How Local health Departments Utilize PHEP Funding When Preparing For and Responding to a Public Health Emergency.
- Local Health Departments Reflect on the Impacts of PHEP Funding Cuts.
- Impact of the Redirection of Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) Funding from State and Local Health Departments to Support National Zika Response.
- Infographic: Impact of Redirection of Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) Funding from State and Local Health Departments to Support National Zika Response
- Public Health emergency Program Targets Diverse Communities via Change Agents