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Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response

Events such as the anthrax attacks on U.S. soil, the 2009 influenza pandemic, the failed car bomb attempt in New York City, and the spread of the 2012 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome epidemic have raised concerns that the nation is vulnerable to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats and emerging infectious diseases.

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) leads federal efforts to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies, working with the Department of Homeland Security, and other federal, state, and local entities. HHS can strengthen emergency preparedness and response by:

  • Ensuring clear priorities are periodically reset and communicated for developing and acquiring medical countermeasures, such as drugs and vaccines, to respond to CBRN agents, emerging infectious diseases, and pandemic influenza.
  • Improving countermeasure development, such as establishing facilities to rapidly produce vaccines and countermeasures in an emergency; establishing the use of strategic investors to help fund development of new countermeasures; and improving regulatory requirements for their use.
  • Improving planning for public health emergencies and coordination between federal departments and state and local entities involved in public health emergency response.
  • Ensuring that the nation’s health care systems have “surge capacity”—the ability to respond to mass casualty events and adequately care for a sudden influx of patients with common or unusual medical needs.
Looking for our recommendations? Click on any report to find each associated recommendation and its current implementation status.

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High Risk: Public Health Emergencies