Nicole Lurie: Strength Needed in Time of Emergency

Apr 14, 2011, 7:56 PM


“If you’re not ready every day, you’re not going to be ready for game day.”

That was a key message Nicole Lurie, M.D., MSPH, Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, brought to the researchers, students, academics, and public health practitioners on the last day of the 2011 Public Health Systems and Services Research Keeneland Conference.

Lurie said that research on key health issues is pivotal to the National Health Security Strategy -- HHS’ “comprehensive blueprint for dealing with the health consequences of a major man-made or natural disaster or a devastating terrorist attack.”

To implement the plan, Lurie said, America needs resilient communities, strong health and emergency response capabilities, measurement and accountability, and coordinated, integrated resources and investments to plan for and respond to a public health crisis.

For example, our nation’s response to the H1N1 crisis made it clear that the US needs research on surveillance, epidemiological investigations, and lab capacity. The Haiti earthquake proved the need for research on how to best allocate scarce resources.

Lurie also highlighted the need for the field to look beyond its research: “Be sure you [also] learn and use the skills to do it—you’ve got to use your non-research skills to make a difference, to take those findings out to the real world to health departments, community organizations, schools, and businesses. We can’t forget the [Public Health Systems and Services] part of this field.”

“I firmly believe the things we do day in, day out are the things we have to do in an emergency,” said Lurie.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.