The U.S. public health community is tasked with more roles and responsibilities than ever before in the nation's history. That community may soon have to take on even more responsibilities during a radiological emergency. Uncovering the gaps and challenges involved may help in moving toward realistic operational planning without continuing to stress current public health programs.
When patients are admitted to a healthcare facility after being exposed to hazardous materials, the decontamination location and process may differ significantly from one facility to another. Each decision made will affect the total cost. And that cost must be weighed against the need for the services rendered.
By examining the successes and challenges of national preparedness efforts each year, the nation is steadily raising the bar for protecting its residents. The unresolved question remains, though, about how to sustain efforts on a decreasing budget - especially when the health of the American people depends on it.
The smallest town in the nation's smallest state has an extremely big job - providing fire, medical, and rescue services to its year-round residents as well as 15-20 times as many summer vacationers. Fortunately, through a combination of innovative technology and mutual aid agreements, Block Island residents and visitors have additional lifelines they can use if and when needed.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six Americans suffer from food poisoning each year; most of those cases are attributed to familiar pathogens like Salmonella. However, the deadliest U.S. foodborne disease outbreak in nearly a century was caused by a lesser known, but much more fatal bacteria in 2011 - Listeria monocytogenes.
The Annual Meeting of the Association of Public Health Laboratories hosted more than 500 participants who share the common goal of improving public health efforts and laboratory preparedness. Through workshops and online resources, people from multiple disciplines can learn more about the role of public health laboratories in detecting and investigating emerging threats.
Working with several allies throughout the world, U.S. public-health agencies have significantly improved the nation's ability to detect, analyze, and counter a broad spectrum of infectious diseases before they reach the pandemic stage. More effort, though, is still needed in cooperation with the private sector - the biggest and most vulnerable link in the U.S. food supply chain.
Protecting the food supply chain and defending against intentional contamination requires preventive/defensive efforts at all levels of government, particularly within local communities. All stakeholders therefore must be able to identify vulnerabilities, integrate federal requirements, and determine the resources and training needed to effectively protect the nation's food supply.
Multi-use equipment is a valuable tool for emergency response. Sometimes, though, specialized equipment also is needed to manage unique risks within a community. Thorough risk assessments and cost estimates can help determine specific planning and equipment needs.
The relatively new world of social media has the ability to enhance communication efforts for emergency managers, but it also has the potential to harm the reputation of public agencies. To minimize the negative effects, clear guidelines - reinforced with proper training - should be outlined in advance for all members of an agency.