A Fully Funded PHEP Program Ensures a Prepared Nation

July 25, 2016|12:36 p.m.| Geetika Nadkarni

Following the September 2001 terrorist attacks and later anthrax events, Congress appropriated funding for CDC to expand its support of state and local public health preparedness. Since then, the CDC Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, Division of State and Local Readiness (DSLR) has administered funds through the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) cooperative agreement to the 50 state health departments, select large cities, and the eight U.S. territories and freely associated states.

Through PHEP, public health departments strengthen their abilities to respond to all types of public health threats from emerging infections such as Ebola and Zika, to acts of terrorism such as the Boston marathon bombing. The PHEP program plays a pivotal role in ensuring that state and local public health systems are prepared for a wide range of threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological events.

Since 2001, PHEP has saved lives and built more resilient communities by developing and sustaining public health emergency management systems and expertise across the nation. Some of the capabilities which state, territorial and large city health departments have developed include the ability to:

  • Rapidly distribute and dispense lifesaving medications and emergency medical supplies to the public
  • Train first responders to protect people’s health during emergencies in their communities
  • Rapidly detect and identify public health threats through nationwide laboratory and epidemiologic surveillance systems

Yet, despite these advances, health departments and their respective preparedness programs and communities face many challenges. Federal funding for the PHEP program has decreased more than 42 percent since 2005. This year, additional funding was cut from the PHEP, which is for all-hazards preparedness, and reallocated to the Zika response.

Why communicating about PHEP is critical

Inconsistent funding makes it difficult for states to sustain the significant, measurable progress they have made in public health preparedness since 2001. Policymakers and other leaders don’t always realize the role that public health fills during a response. In fact, some have asked why the PHEP program isn’t “done” now, after 15 years of investment. But similar to other responders, investments to public health emergency management systems must be sustained to ensure that health departments are trained and ready to respond when needed.

ASTHO and CDC encourage state and local jurisdictions to talk to their leadership and stakeholders about how PHEP continues to save lives in their communities. ASTHO’s website titled “PHEP Impacts” (www.phepimpacts.com) and accompanying toolkit have been created to aid PHEP awardees in sharing their successes. States have already used some of the fact sheets and key messages from the toolkit in addition to their own messaging to:

  • Educate their Congressional representatives about the importance of PHEP and the need for sustained level funding.
  • Respond to press inquiries on the state’s capacity to respond to emergencies after funding cuts.
  • Communicate what the PHEP program does with state and federal agencies, local health departments, and healthcare partner organizations.

ASTHO hopes to amplify the public health preparedness community’s voice to educate our nation’s leaders and public health stakeholders about the PHEP accomplishments that keep our communities protected and prepared.

Geetika Nadkarni

Geetika Nadkarni, MPH, is director of infectious disease at ASTHO. She has recently moved into this role after serving as a senior analyst on ASTHO’s preparedness team and coordinating several projects related to public health preparedness and response.

ASTHO extends special thanks to the state and territorial directors of public health preparedness for their extensive input on the PHEP Communications messages and tools.