US Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius presented the first US National Health Security Strategy (“NHSS”) in December 2009. The NHSS “is intended to galvanize efforts to minimize the health consequences associated with significant health incidents.” These incidents involve the “large-scale incidents” including terrorist attacks, hurricanes, SARS, H1N1, etc.. The NHSS presents a framework for integrating all levels of government to be better prepared and equipped to prevent and respond to health risks associated with the large-scale incidents.
The NHSS has two goals: (1) building community resilience, and (2) strengthening and sustaining health and emergency response systems. Community resilience is defined as “the sustained ability of communities to withstand and recover–in both the short and long terms–from adversity, such as an influenza pandemic or terrorist attack.” To measure community health, a number of factors will be taken into account, including physical, social, and environmental factors. To achieve the second goal, there is a push to integrate not only government entities, but also includes academia and the private sector. It is the belief that combining all of these efforts will aid in minimizing and/or preventing incidents, detecting incidents more effectively, providing care to affected persons, and helping communities recover from incidents.
The NHSS has 10 strategic objectives to achieve its goals:
- Foster informed, empowered individuals and communities
- Develop and maintain the workforce needed for national health security
- Ensure situational awareness
- Foster integrated, scalable health care delivery systems
- Ensure timely and effective communications
- Promote an effective countermeasures enterprise
- Ensure prevention or mitigation of environmental and other emerging threats to health
- Incorporate post-incident health recovery into planning and response
- Work with cross-border and global partners to enhance national continental, and global health security
- Ensure that all systems that support national health security are based upon the best available science, evaluation, and quality improvement methods
Implementation of this program begins January 2010.