Emergency Preparedness: A Blended Emphasis on Collaboration

Mar 23, 2012, 6:15 PM, Posted by

Public health and health care preparedness experts met together at the 2012 Joint Preparedness Conference, where a major focus was greater collaboration between agencies and partners throughout the federal government to achieve maximum public benefit. The conference was sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (OPHPR) and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

Both offices award annual preparedness grants to all fifty states, several large cities and all U.S. territories, but previously required grantees to apply and report separately. The conference, which also included representatives from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers (ASTHO), the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) and other partners, brought the experts from both funding streams into the same room along with the project managers who handle both health care and public health.

“The emphasis is on aligning the efforts between public health and heath care,” says Steven F. Boedigheimer, CDC Deputy Director of OPHPR’s Division of State and Local Readiness, who led the conference.

Among the benefits of the alignment, says Boedigheimer, is the opportunity for those receiving grants to track progress and record their utilization of funds. “We’re modeling at the federal level a streamlining of our process and a much better coordination of our federal planning, technical assistance and support of our awardees.”

One key goal of the alignment is a sense of shared, rather than siloed, responsibility. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security in October 2011 released the National Preparedness Goal, which called for an "all of nation" approach to preparedness.

"Preparedness is more than one person or agency. It requires the collaboration of multiple agencies to understand and implement planning and response," says Boedigheimer.

Boedigheimer says the key goal of the collaboration is strong communication, strong response plans and better outcomes. "We want to be real clear on what each funding stream pays for and weave that into a tapestry that is a strong safety net for our communities."

Significant issues tackled at the conference included:

  • Coalition-building, including community partners, hospitals and not-for-profit organizations, which all contribute to strengthening the community’s ability to respond
  • Sharing of strategy and best practices
  • Better alignment and clarification on how awardees can satisfy the requirements of both funding streams at the same time

The overarching goal, says Boedigheimer, is to give awardees the time they need for actual preparedness. "We want the time spent devoted to preparing even as they remain accountable stewards for the money."

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