Preparedness Must Permeate Health Care Yet Still Has a Long Way to Go

October 28, 2013
by Jeffrey Levi, Ph.D., Dara Alpert Lieberman, M.P.P., and Albert Lang
Health Progress (Journal of the Catholic Health Association of the United States)

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, the city activated a coordinated response plan among several hospitals, public health and emergency responders.1 Hospitals immediately prepared to receive traumatic injuries, and, although 264 individuals were injured in the bombings, no one died after the three on-site fatalities.

This kind of response was made possible by the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP). The program, administered by the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), provides funding and technical assistance to prepare the health system to respond to and recover from a disaster. (See interview with Nicole Lurie, MD, page 57.)

Before September 11, 2001, hospitals often had emergency operations plans, but without (or with very little) guidance or oversight from outside emergency response or public health agencies at the local, state or federal level. The Hospital Preparedness Program began in response to the 2001 terrorist attacks, and it was intended to partly address this haphazard approach by focusing on bioterrorism and helping individual hospitals purchase supplies such as beds, personal protective equipment and stockpiles of pharmaceuticals.

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