Category Archives: Federal government

Oct 4 2013

Severe Weather: Impact of the Federal Shutdown

file map of current severe weather warnings

Severe weather is expected to impact at least four regions of the U.S. this weekend including a tropical storm in the Gulf Coast, a tornado threat in the Midwest, snow in the West and spreading fires in California fueled by dry weather. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has already recalled some furloughed staff to prepare for the storms expected on the Gulf Coast.

Because there is an exception during the shutdown for agencies that help protect against loss of life and property, the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service (NWS) are regularly updating their websites, and the NWS site has an option to search by state at the bottom of the map on the Service’s home page at

Other federal sites, including, the federal disaster preparedness site, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), currently say they are not adding new information, though government sites already have excellent general disaster preparedness information consumers and health departments can access. The U.S. government has a web page explaining what’s up and running and what is not, during the shutdown. If any of the weather threats become disaster situations, some of the sites may be permitted to update with specific information for individual disasters. The Weather Channel, a commercial site, is updating its information regularly.

Many agency social media feeds, including CDC’s, are not updating during the shutdown, however FEMA is updating its Twitter feed for the severe weather in the Gulf. Yesterday FEMA tweeted:

"Use the @FEMA App to #GetPrepared for #Karen. Text ANDROID or APPLE or BLACKBERRY to 43362 & we’ll text you a link"

Oct 3 2013

Forbes: Federal Shutdown and the Fight Against Microbes


Recent debate about the federal government shutdown that started two days ago for federal employees has included a wide range of concerns and viewpoints from different sides of the spectrum. But Forbes Magazine has a new article that points out that the shutdown means something else entirely for some often overlooked, but very influential, bodies outside the federal government: microbes.

According to the piece in Forbes, the shutdown has the potential:

to pose a threat to public health because [it will] allow microbes to gain footholds as our defenses against them falter.

The article reported that several federal agencies will reduce such critical work as research funding, food inspections and  surveillance for the flu and other infectious diseases including the emerging MERS virus, which has caused dozens of deaths overseas. A recent post from The Atlantic also pointed out a related piece of reporting from The Wall Street Journal: "about 200 patients who otherwise would be admitted to the NIH Clinical Center into clinical trials each week will be turned away. This includes about 30 children, most of them cancer patients...."

>>Read the full article from Forbes.

>>Read more on how researchers are studying microbes in buildings to health create healthier spaces.

Aug 29 2013

Recommended Reading: FEMA on Preparing Your Family for an Emergency

“I’ll pack the dead batteries.”

“I’ll only put what I don’t need into a duffle bag.”

“I’ll try to get the generator going without any gas.”

Not exactly smart moves in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency…but maybe not far from reality for many families. Six out of 10 Americans don't have a disaster plan and only 19 percent said they were very prepared for a disaster. A new PSA campaign from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Ad Council hopes to change that.

The campaign is designed to educate and empower families with children in the household to take steps to get everyone prepared for emergencies. That means giving everyone a role and ensuring everyone knows the plan. Unfortunately, because the subject matter is difficult and weighty, some parents hesitate to even bring it up.

By showing exactly how not to approach the discussion of preparedness—the above quotes are from family members sitting around a table—the new campaign encourages parents to have honest conversations with their kids about disaster preparedness, which can inspire a sense of confidence, control and calm when an actual emergency strikes.

“Humor is important because people get their guard down when they’re engaged in message,” said Priscilla Natkins, Ad Council’s executive vice president and director of client services. “They’re laughing, they’re smiling—yet they’re listening to the content. They’re listening to what these people are saying.”

>>Read More: Go to to read the full story and watch a video on the new PSA campaign.

>>Bonus Link: Learn more about how families can prepare for disasters at

Jul 16 2013

Regina Benjamin Closes Out Last Day as U.S. Surgeon General

Surgeon General Regina Benjamin Surgeon General Regina Benjamin

Today U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA, leaves her post after four years of public health accomplishments. Dr. Benjamin will return to Alabama to volunteer at her clinic. Deputy Surgeon General Boris Lushniak will serve as acting surgeon general until a new surgeon general is appointed.

Dr. Benjamin’s many singular initiatives during her tenure include:

  • Serving as chair of the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council, which spearheaded the release of the National Prevention Strategy (NPS), a roadmap for working with partners at the local, national, and international level to help bridge the gaps in health disparities and ultimately increase the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life. The National Prevention Council is composed of cabinet-level heads of federal agencies, including the Departments of Transportation, Education, Defense, Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency. “The NPS illuminates and puts into action what we in Public Health have been saying for more than a hundred years,” says Dr. Benjamin. “Prevention is the foundation of public health and prevention is the foundation of an effective health care system.”
  • Releasing the National Prevention Council Annual Status Report, showing positive trends in some leading health indicators including decreases in youth ages 3 to 11 exposed to secondhand smoke; the number of adolescents who are current smokers; the rate of coronary heart disease deaths; stroke deaths; and overall cancer deaths.
  • Spearheading the National Suicide Prevention Strategy, an ambitious national strategy to reduce the number of deaths by suicide.
  • Releasing My Family Health Portrait, an Internet-based tool encouraging people to collect their family health history during the holidays when families gather together.

>>Bonus Links:

  • Read a commentary written by Dr. Benjamin for the Institute of Medicine on the successes of the National Prevention Council.
  • Read a NewPublicHealth interview series about the role of many of the different agencies that make up the Prevention Council in making the U.S. a healthier nation.
Sep 26 2012

Surgeon General Regina Benjamin Q&A: Implementing the National Prevention Strategy

Surgeon General Regina Benjamin Surgeon General Regina Benjamin

This summer the National Prevention Council, made up of 17 federal departments that are incorporating prevention into their activities, released its first annual report detailing successes in implementing the National Prevention Strategy and laying out next steps to help achieve its goals.

At the release, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA, who is also chair of the Council said, “This Action Plan highlights how the National Prevention Council departments are working together—in conjunction with state, tribal, local, territorial, public, and private partners—to begin to move our health system from one based on sickness and disease to one based on wellness and prevention.” 

As part of our conversation series on the National Prevention Strategy, with key leaders in federal agencies who are shaping the Strategy, NewPublicHealth spoke with Dr. Benjamn about the regional meetings she is spearheading across the country to implement the strategy and her vision for healthier lives for all Americans. 

Listen to a short podcast with Dr. Benjamin, and read the full interview below.

Read more

Oct 31 2011

HHS Leading Health Indicators: Health by Some New Numbers

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a set of twelve Leading Health Indicators at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association this morning.

“The indicators help communicate high-priority health issues to the public and actions that can be taken to address them,” said Howard Koh, MD, Assistant Secretary of Health at HHS, at the briefing this morning. The indicators also give health professionals a chance to narrow their focus when it comes to the health of Americans. Healthy People 2020, which the leading indicators are linked to, contain 42 topic areas, nearly 600 objectives, and close to 1200 measures. “Through these… measures, communities can identify vital health issues and track how they are doing compared to other communities,” said Dr. Koh.

The new indicators include some of the usual, though critical, suspects including violence and injury prevention but also include two new measures that public health officials cheered at the announcement today—oral health and social determinants. The other indicators include access to health services, clinical preventive services, environmental quality, maternal, infant and child health, mental health, nutrition, physical activity and obesity, reproductive and sexual health, substance abuse and tobacco. According to HHS, preparedness was not selected because the topic is new and there’s a lack of historical data, however the agency will continue to monitor the issue to see if it should be included in the future.

The indicators were developed by HHS advisory groups and the Institute of Medicine, which released a report on leading health indicators several months ago.

Todd Park, HHS Chief Technology Officer, today announced a related app challenge at this morning’s briefing. “We’re launching a new application development challenge to bring technology innovators and public health mavens together to develop tools that can be used to help communities apply the power of the Leading Health Indicators to improve health,” said Park. The contest ends in March, and will be available at

Weigh In: Do you have an idea for a leading health indicator app that would benefit communities?

>>Follow the rest of our APHA 2011 Annual Meeting Coverage here.