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Press Releases - 9/30/08

Contact Becky Wexler
(301) 652-1558

Report Shows Six Years of Critical Achievement in Public Health Preparedness

Washington, D.C. (September 30, 2008)—

If a bioterror attack, flu pandemic, or other public health emergency hit the United States tomorrow, would state and local health agencies be prepared? Could they quickly identify the threat and take the actions needed to protect the public? A new report, marking the conclusion of National Preparedness Month, says "yes." Public Health Emergency Preparedness: Six Years of Achievement, shows how state and local public health agencies have used six years of federal funding to turn the previously neglected U.S. public health system into a strong, coordinated, agile mechanism for protecting the health of the public.

The new report was created by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the Association of Public Health Laboratories, and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists using comparative data collected in 2002 and 2007. It illustrates the great extent of planning and training that has taken place over this time. For instance, in 2002, 11% of all states had plans to deal with a major health threat. Today, every state has a comprehensive, tested plan to protect its residents'' health. Local health agencies with plans jumped from 20% before 2002 to 82% in 2007. 

Public health agencies are using rigorous drills and exercises—the same tools that have proven most effective for the U.S. military, law enforcement, and firefighters—to test and improve their systems. One conservative estimate in the report observes that state public health agencies tested their preparedness through more than 700 exercises in 2007, and more than 90% of all local health agencies tested their new abilities in at least one full scale exercise in that year.

The report also shows that these new resources and capacities are being put to the test every day as public health agencies save lives and protect the public''s health during major E. coli and salmonella events, shootings, tornadoes, floods, fires, and infectious disease outbreaks. More than half of all medium and large local health agencies responded to at least one significant emergency in 2007. More than a quarter of state and large city health agencies responded to six or more major emergencies.

The report warns that despite the significant progress that has been achieved, threats remain and continue to constantly change. Much work remains to be fully prepared for all public health hazards. Only through sustained commitment to support for public health preparedness can states and localities continue the important work of protecting the public against catastrophic health threats. Without it, the United States faces the erosion of its current progress and an inevitable slide back to the days when health agency computers were obsolete, if they even existed, staff lacked the necessary training, and emergency response took days instead of minutes.

The report can be downloaded at http://www.astho.org/pubs/PHEPPartnersReport.pdf


NACCHO:  Becky Wexler; BWexler@burnesscommunications.com; (301) 280-5729

ASTHO:  Paula Steib; psteib@astho.org; (571) 527-3173

APHL:  Jody Devoll; jody.devoll@aphl.org; (240) 485-2745


The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials is the national nonprofit organization representing the state and territorial public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. Territories, and the District of Columbia. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to assuring excellence in state-based public health practice.

About APHL

The Association of Public Health Laboratories is a professional association representing member national, state, city, and local public health, environmental, and international laboratories on issues of public health importance. APHL''s mission is to promote the role of public health laboratories in support of national and global objectives, and to promote policies and programs that assure continuous improvement in the quality of laboratory practices.  APHL is dedicated to protecting and preserving the health of our nation, and to promoting technology transfer in laboratory practices to foster better health globally.

About CSTE

CSTE is a professional association of over 1,050 public health epidemiologists working in states, local health agencies, and territories. CSTE works to establish more effective relationships among state and other health agencies. It also provides technical advice and assistance to partner organizations, such as the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), and to federal public health agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CSTE members have surveillance and epidemiology expertise in a broad range of areas including occupational health, infectious diseases, immunization, environmental health, chronic diseases, injury control, and maternal and child health. CSTE has a very diverse and inclusive membership.

NACCHO is the national organization representing the nation''s nearly 3,000 local health departments. These agencies work every day on the front lines to protect and promote the health of their communities. NACCHO develops resources and programs and promotes national policies that support effective local public health practice.


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