By Elleen Kane, Office of the Assistant Sectary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) , Julia Gin, GAP Solutions, Inc. Contractor supporting ASPR, and Pamela Barnes, ASPR
Every time you run a vaccination clinic or spearhead a disease prevention campaign, you improve health security. Every time you track a disease outbreak or connect people with personal health services, like preventive or health promotion services, you give health security a boost. Every time you plan how to coordinate the delivery of drugs, supplies and provisions to disaster survivors and populations at risk or push a colleague to keep his or her knowledge and skills up-to-date, you advance our nation’s health security.
That’s because everything you do is meant to improve the health of people in your community, and healthier people are more likely to survive a disaster and bounce back faster. That’s what health security is all about: the nation and its people being prepared for, protected from, and resilient in the face of incidents with negative health consequences.
How will we know if health is secure – if our community will be resilient? That’s the ultimate question. Local health officials, (you or perhaps someone you know) joined state and federal health officials in working with representatives from many walks of life – private companies, faith-based organizations, civic groups, and so on – to come up with a strategy and implementation plan that describe things each sector could do over the next four years to boost health security. More than 400 organizations and people commented so you can be confident that the activities are realistic for each sector, including strapped local health departments.
In fact, the activities described in this National Health Security Strategy and Implementation Plan 2015-2018 are things your department is probably already doing or plans to do to build the capabilities recommended and funded by Hospital Preparedness Program grants and Public Health Emergency Preparedness cooperative agreements. Things like:
- Encouraging community engagement and a culture of volunteerism to enhance community health resilience
- Coordinating training at the regional level to ensure consistency among responders
- Ensuring that the health system can meet the access and functional needs of at-risk individuals
- Improving health situational awareness and data-sharing with respect to integrating human health, environmental health, zoonotic, and other relevant information to mitigate immediate-, short-, and long-term health effects
In this strategy you’ll also see actions community groups can do and they’ll need your help to learn about these things. The end result of collective action is health security and a society that values resilience so much that each person is willing to take action to be more resilient. Of course that means health security isn’t solely a government responsibility, be it your department or anyone else’s. It’s a civic responsibility – for residents, communities, health systems, and government agencies alike.
While motivating people to take action to protect health may feel like a heavy lift – nobody knows this better than local health departments – the partnerships your department forges and maintains and the work you do every day to improve health overall can help make health security and resilience commonplace. Every day you work across community sectors to prepare and respond to the diverse threats that impact your community’s health. As you do, think about these things in the context of security. You’re critical to success, to resilience, to national health security in your community. Learn more about the connection between community health and health security at www.phe.gov/nhss.