Health Organizations Release Recommendations For Improved Disaster Response

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Disaster Response

A coalition of 18 health organizations released a consensus report with 53 strategic recommendations for legislators, government officials and organizational leaders to more effectively prepare for and respond to catastrophic emergencies.

The recommendations, especially nine identified as "critical," serve as a national call to action from medicine, dentistry, nursing, hospitals, emergency medical services (EMS), and public health. The recommendations seek to strengthen health system preparedness and response through increased funding, greater integration, continued education and training and ensured legal protections for responders.

"Most disasters are unplanned, but the response shouldn't be," said AMA President Ronald M. Davis, M.D. "Whether disasters are natural or man-made, infectious disease pandemics or terrorist attacks, physicians, health care professionals and public health workers must be prepared to respond to emergencies and aid in the recovery efforts that follow. We can't predict when a disaster will strike, but as first responders, we can better prepare ourselves and others to protect the health and safety of our patients and citizens."

The AMA and APHA convened the AMA/APHA Linkages Leadership Summit, which met in 2005 in Chicago and 2006 in New Orleans to develop consensus recommendations that would be used to promote a coordinated national agenda for strengthening health system preparedness for terrorism and other disasters. Nine critical recommendations from the consensus report make up a call to action in four categories:

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-- Public health systems must be appropriately funded to adequately respond to day-to-day emergencies and catastrophic mass casualty events;

-- Public health and disaster response systems must be fully integrated and interoperable at all government levels;

-- Health care and public health professionals should maintain an appropriate level of education and training; and

-- Health care and public health responders must be provided and assured adequate legal protections in a disaster.

"For too long public health and medicine have responded to emergencies in separate silos," said Georges Benjamin, M.D., FACP, FACEP(E), Executive Director of the APHA. "Today's report represents our attempt to bridge the gap so that our health care and public health systems are fully integrated and interoperable in ways that allow for a rapid and efficient disaster response."

The AMA/APHA Linkages Leadership Summit project was funded under a cooperative agreement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Terrorism Injuries: Information Dissemination and Exchange (TIIDE) program.

The recommendations will be announced in conjunction with the AMA/CDC 2nd National Congress for Health System Readiness at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC, a three-day summit convened to bring public health and healthcare delivery sectors together to improve preparedness at the community level for an influenza pandemic.

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