Obama outlines biosurveillance strategy

The Obama Administration recently announced the unveiling of the first U.S. biosurveillance strategy in an eight page document the president said makes up part of his National Security Strategy.

The document outlines how the United States intends to detect a range of threats, including bioterror attacks, threats to the nation's agricultural base, outbreaks of infectious diseases and foodborne illnesses, according to CIDRAP News.

The report addresses weaknesses in the current U.S. biosurveillance system that were found by two Government Accountability Office analyses and one from the Department of Homeland Security inspector general.

The strategy recognizes a need to focus attention on a limited number of core functions and increase efforts to integrate the relationships between federal departments and the private sector. A lack of trust between the biosurveillance system and other agencies has been identified as a key weakness of the current system as a whole, CIDRAP News reports.

Leveraging existing capabilities is a critical component of the document and one of its stated guiding principles. The plan seeks to add value to those already participating in the system without adding to their burden.

"In these fiscally challenging times, we seek to leverage distributed capabilities and to add value to independent, individual efforts to protect the health and safety of the nation," the plan says, according to CIDRAP News.

President Obama said that he has ordered federal officials to finish work on a strategic implementation plan within the next 120 days. The implementation plan will identify the responsibilities and specific actions that can be taken by groups involved with the federal biosurveillance effort.