Lab Matters Winter 2022 | Page 28


20 Years of Progress for Public Health Emergency Preparedness

By Jill Sutton , specialist , Emergency Preparedness and Response
• Offer competitive salaries .
• Conduct trainings , exercises , drills , workshops , webinars and conferences .
• Engage in mentorship programs .
Following 9 / 11 and the anthrax attacks of 2001 , the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ) Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response created the Public Health Emergency Preparedness ( PHEP ) program , an initiative focused on strengthening state , local , tribal and territorial readiness for public health emergencies .
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the PHEP program . Since its inception , PHEP has provided over $ 15 billion in funding to state , local , tribal and territorial public health departments to improve their capacity to monitor and respond to a wide range of public health threats , such as emerging infectious diseases , natural disasters , or biological , chemical , nuclear and radiological events . In 2011 , CDC developed 15 capabilities that serve as a framework for jurisdictions to guide their emergency preparedness and response planning . In 2018 , the capabilities were updated to incorporate the experiences and lessons learned since 2011 .
Public health laboratories play a lead role in the detection and response to public health threats . Every year , they receive a portion of their jurisdiction ’ s PHEP funding and invest much of this funding on workforce . This is critical because the ability of the public health system to prevent , respond to and recover from emerging public health threats depends on a sustained workforce . Without a highly trained and resilient public health laboratory workforce , our vigilance for pathogens of public health significance is compromised , thus putting the public ’ s health at risk .
Public health laboratories invest PHEP workforce funding to :
• Sustain laboratory positions .
• Recruit and retain laboratory staff .
Two decades of funding , guidance and technical assistance from PHEP has helped public health departments build and strengthen their preparedness and response capabilities , however federal preparedness funding has declined over the last 20 years , making it even more challenging to meet the changing public health preparedness and response demands . This decline in funding has forced PHEP recipients to make cuts to their budgets for essential positions , preparedness trainings and exercises , and funding to offer competitive salaries , which impacts the viability of the public health workforce . Since public health laboratories are expected to maintain preparedness capabilities for all-hazards threats , dedicated and continuous federal preparedness funding is needed .
Public health preparedness has evolved in recent years , and it will continue to do so as we use lessons learned from past responses and face new public health threats . As we celebrate 20 years of PHEP , we honor all that it has helped public health departments accomplish and hope that , as public health changes , federal funding will adapt to ensure continued investments in public health preparedness . g
26 LAB MATTERS Winter 2022
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