Public Health and Hospital Emergency Preparedness Programs: Evolution of Performance Measurement Systems to Measure Progress

GAO-07-485R Published: Mar 23, 2007. Publicly Released: Apr 25, 2007.
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The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the anthrax incidents during the fall of 2001, Hurricane Katrina, and concerns about the possibility of an influenza pandemic have raised public awareness and concerns about the nation's public health and medical systems' ability to respond to bioterrorist events and other public health emergencies. From 2002 to 2006, the Congress appropriated about $6.1 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support activities to strengthen state and local governments' emergency preparedness capabilities under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (Preparedness and Response Act). HHS has distributed funds annually to 62 recipients, including all 50 states and 4 large municipalities, through cooperative agreements under two programs--the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program, and the Health Resources and Services Administration's (HRSA) National Bioterrorism Hospital Preparedness Program. The common goal of CDC's and HRSA's preparedness programs is to improve state and local preparedness to respond to bioterrorism and other large-scale public health emergencies, such as natural disasters or outbreaks of infectious disease. Annually, both CDC and HRSA develop and issue program guidance for recipients that describes activities necessary to improve their ability to respond to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies and sets out requirements for measuring their performance. Each recipient is required to submit periodic reports that track progress in improving their preparedness. As a result of the nation's ineffective response to Hurricane Katrina and the need to prepare for a possible influenza pandemic, members of the Congress have raised questions about CDC's and HRSA's efforts to monitor the progress of their preparedness programs. Because of these questions, we are reporting on (1) how CDC's and HRSA's performance measurement systems have evolved and (2) how CDC and HRSA are using these systems to measure the progress of their preparedness programs.

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