The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine panel on disaster risk reduction (DRR) for health professions was convened in April at the 2016 Preparedness Summit in Dallas, Texas. The panel included some familiar and unfamiliar faces. From the familiar category were Dr. Mark Keim, founder of DisasterDoc (http://disasterdoc.org), and Mollie Mahany from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDCs) National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH). From the less familiar, but no less important, camp were individuals representing food security for the city of Baltimore; emergency preparedness for Jackson County, Illinois; and the Medical Reserve Corps from Snohomish, Washington. Yours truly represented the environmental health profession.
The presentations and ensuing dialogue were striking in that nearly every illustration and case study described by the speakers were environmentally oriented, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and Zika. The stunning centrality of environmental health issues to most disaster scenarios is only surprising in that the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) capabilities do not reflect our profession's essential and influential role in the health of the nation. CDC developed 15 PHEP capabilities to serve as national public health preparedness standards, ostensibly to assist state and local public health departments in their strategic planning. How is it there is no PHEP capability for environmental health?
I recently visited Dr. Stephen Redd (RADM, U.S. Public Health Service), director of CDCs Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response. Dr. Redd is a committed and highly competent professional whose office is responsible for all of CDCs public health preparedness and response activities. I posed the question to him during my visit to Atlanta, "Why is there no environmental health PHEP capability?" To his credit, Dr. Redd acknowledged the absence and suggested it was embedded in other capabilities. Nonetheless, how can "nonpharmaceutical interventions" merit its own capability, and environmental health not? This line of questioning is not a simple, jealous matter of "me, too," but more a matter of national security. The last time I looked, food, water, and shelter were essential elements of life.
At least the United Nations gets it. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2015-2030 was adopted at the Third United Nations World Conference in Sendai, Japan, on March 18, 2015...