National Preparedness Month: Recognizing Public Health Preparedness

September 07, 2023 | Andrew Pickett

A house in the Philippines has been leveled by a typhoonAs we come into September, which has been designated National Preparedness Month, it is a good time to reflect on the current state of public health preparedness across our nation and the globe. FEMA created National Preparedness Month to raise awareness that disasters and emergencies can occur at any time, and to educate the public on the importance of preparing for them.

As members of the state/territorial public health community, we recognize that our public health agencies certainly have a role to play in the response to disasters.

Fortunately, looking at the ASTHO Directors of Public Health Preparedness (DPHP) peer group and seeing the great work of public health emergency preparedness and response programs across the nation, we recognize that there is much to be celebrated this month—but also much more work that needs to be done.

Cause for Recognition

The role of public health over the COVID response of the last three years cannot be understated, and the efforts of public health agencies to simply save lives deserves as much recognition possible. At the same time, other aspects of public health preparedness and response must be recognized. Nationally, new challenges—or old challenges impacting new areas of the country—have been met with skillful response by dedicated public health personnel. Responses to issues like increased international migration, wildfire smoke from neighboring states and countries, record heat waves, and severe weather have proven the value that public health emergency preparedness and response brings to communities across the nation.

More to Be Done

While these new and expanding challenges are being presented to public health agencies, the fact that we have had successful responses doesn’t diminish the need for more work in this space. Specifically, as we look around during this National Preparedness Month, and the coming year for our DPHP community, there are three key areas we need to continue to focus our attention:

  • Collaboration: The COVID response has opened the door to new partnerships and new connections for public health departments. We need to continue to mature these relationships and keep the connections to support future incidents impacting the public’s health.
  • Growth of the public health workforce: There is a lot currently underway around public health workforce investment, but the preparedness and response space are no different. Training and education opportunities to prepare future public health emergency preparedness and experts—especially those with new ideas—will be essential to grow and advance our programs.
  • Funding: Working with ASTHO, continued work is needed to educate state and federal funders about the need for appropriate funding. Further, this funding needs to be made available through three separate—but equally important—pathways:
    1. Sustainable baseline funding to support ongoing investment in core public health infrastructure.
    2. Stable ongoing funding for specific investment in emergency preparedness capability and capacity.
    3. Flexible and timely funding for use during disasters and emergencies that impact the public’s health.

Everyone in the public health space should continue to take pride in the important work we are doing. But during this National Preparedness Month, give a special shout to those working in the preparedness space; in the face of everything going on, we must be especially thankful for these teams!

To learn more about work done by the Directors of Public Health Preparedness Peer Network, consider the following reads: