Long overdue: environmental health and public health emergency preparedness collide.

Author:Dyjack, David
Position::DirecTalk: MUSINGS FROM THE 10TH FLOOR - Column
 
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Introduction

For those of you who regularly read my column, you will immediately recognize the profound importance of Dr. Funk's well-written guest editorial below. The Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) cooperative agreement is the 800-pound gorilla that drives emergency preparedness capabilities across the U.S. Environmental health is explicitly called out in the new PHEP cooperative agreement, and I am delighted. At the same time, Dr. Funk concludes her column with the caveat, "some have advocated for a separate environmental health capability." That "some" is me. And I'm still working on it.

Increasing environmental health activities were identified as a priority for the new Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) cooperative agreement (CDC-RFATP17-1701). The purpose of this funding is to strengthen and enhance the capabilities of state, local, and territorial public health and healthcare systems to respond effectively (i.e., mitigate the loss of life and reduce the threats to the community's health and safety) to evolving threats and other emergencies within the U.S. and its territories and freely associated states. The 2017-2022 funding is anticipated to be awarded July 1, 2017.

Highlights of the environmental health activities are as follows. Under the Characterizing Populations At-Risk section, grantees can now conduct a Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) with their funding in addition to attending CASPER training. Grantees may use PHEP funds to support environmental public health tracking data to identify populations at risk for natural, chemical, and radiological events. To identify the at-risk populations, they are encouraged to use the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) Social Vulnerability Index. These all provide more flexibility for grantees to identify populations at risk for natural, chemical, and radiological events in addition to biological events.

In the Share Situational Awareness Across the Healthcare and Public Health Systems section, grantees are required to develop informatics systems to more rapidly share these data between healthcare systems and public health. This system is something that the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) has been working on for years to improve reporting after disasters. Successes have included developing consensus case definitions and standards for certifying disaster-related deaths and developing guidelines...

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