HHS releases National Health Security Strategy

The National Health Security Strategy was released today by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The plan is the nation's first comprehensive strategy to focus on protecting people's health during a large-scale emergency.

“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,” Sebelius 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.”

The strategy, to ensure national health security, provides a framework for actions to build community resilience, strengthen and sustain health emergency response teams, and fill current gaps.

“Events which threaten the health of the people of this nation could very easily compromise our national security. Whether it’s a pandemic or a premeditated chemical attack, our public health system must be prepared to respond to protect the interests of the American people," Sebelius said. "In order to be prepared to both respond to an incident and to recover, we need a strong national health system with individuals and families ready to handle the health effects of a disaster."

The National Health Security Strategy and its accompanying interim implementation guide carry 10 objectives meant to achieve health security, including fostering informed, empowered individuals and communities and developing and maintaining the workforce needed for national health security.

Other objectives include ensuring situational awareness to allow responders to be aware in an emergency situation and fostering integrated health care delivery systems that can respond to a disaster of any size. Also noted is the need to ensure timely and effective communications and promote an effective countermeasures enterprise.

The strategy also calls for prevention or mitigation of environmental and other emerging threats to health and incorporation of post-incident health recover into planning and response.

Working with cross-border and global partners to enhance national, continental and global health security is also called for by the strategy as well as ensuring that all systems that support national health security are based upon the best available science, evaluation and quality improvement methods.