The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a strategy for protecting people’s health during a huge emergency. The nation’s first such comprehensive strategy enumerates priority for government and non-government activities in a large-scale emergency during the next four years, the department’s secretary said. “As we’ve learned in the response to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, responsibility for improving our nation’s ability to address existing and emerging health threats must be broadly shared by everyone — governments, communities, families, and individuals,” she said. “The National Health Security Strategy is a call to action for each of us so that every community becomes fully prepared and ready to recover quickly after an emergency.”

From Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services:

Our Nation, like all countries, faces many threats with the potential for large-scale health consequences, including disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and terrorist attacks. Preparing for and responding to these and other threats requires the commitment of, and cooperation among, all segments of society: government, the private sector, local communities, and international partners.

(The document) presents the Nation’s first National Health Security Strategy (NHSS), which is intended to help galvanize efforts to minimize the health consequences associated with significant health incidents. The NHSS was developed in consultation with a broad range of stakeholders, including representatives from local, state, territorial, tribal, and federal government; community-based organizations; private-sector firms; and academia. The statutory authority and requirements for the NHSS are provided under section 2802 of the Public Health Service Act.

The vision for health security described in the NHSS is built on a foundation of community resilience—healthy individuals, families, and communities with access to health care and with the knowledge and resources to know what to do to care for themselves and others in both routine and emergency situations. Communities help build resilience by implementing policies and practices to ensure the conditions under which people can be healthy, by assuring access to medical care, building social cohesion, supporting healthy behaviors, and creating a culture of preparedness in which bystander response to emergencies is not the exception but the norm.

Community resilience is not possible without strong and sustainable public health, healthcare, and emergency response systems. This means that the health care infrastructure is capable of meeting anticipated needs and able to surge to meet unanticipated ones; ready to prevent or mitigate the spread of disease, morbidity and mortality; able to mobilize people and equipment to respond to emergencies; capable of accommodating large numbers of people in need during an emergency; and knowledgeable about its population—including people’s health needs, culture, literacy, and traditions—and therefore able to communicate effectively with the full range of affected populations, including those most at risk, during an emergency.

Securing our Nation’s health is a formidable task and must be a responsibility that is broadly shared among virtually all segments of society. The NHSS reflects current approaches and priorities for improving our Nation’s ability to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from a major health incident. However, the NHSS also acknowledges that achieving national health security is a long-term proposition, one that requires a process of continuous learning and improvement, strict accountability, a willingness to engage domestic and global partners, and an on-going commitment to measuring, evaluating, and improving our collective ability to recognize, confront, and resolve existing and emerging threats to our Nation’s health.

The entire report is at: