The United States is continuing its slow emergence from a nation-wide shut down imposed to slow down the spread of COVID-19. Most states have started to reopen, with bars, restaurants, and many workplaces starting to fill. As people begin to spend more time together again, it is critically important that public health agencies do everything they can to help prevent further spread of the infection and continue to monitor the level of infection within the population.
On June 10, 2020 the US Senate released a white paper titled “Preparing for the Next Pandemic” under the signature of Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. The white paper has five recommendations to address future pandemics based on lessons learned from COVID-19 and the past 20 years of pandemic planning. “The five recommendations…along with a series of questions at the end of this white paper, are intended to elicit recommendations that Congress can consider and act on this year,” Alexander said in a statement, adding that “I am inviting comments, responses, and any additional recommendations for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to consider. This feedback will be shared with my colleagues, both Democrat and Republican.” This feedback from the public will be accepted until June 26, 2020 and can be submitted to PandemicPreparedness@help.senate.gov.
HLN attended the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) 2019 Annual Conference in Raleigh, NC on June 2-5. Bringing together over 1,600 epidemiologists, public health professionals, and associated non-profits and vendors, the conference provided sessions, roundtables, and engagement in a number of areas important to its members. For the second year HLN is a Bronze sponsor of the conference. “Given our work on Electronic Case Reporting (eCR) we feel it’s critically important to support this event,” commented Dr. Noam Arzt, president of HLN who will attend the meeting along with Janet Hui, “This is an energized community, and the opportunity to exchange ideas and insights is beneficial to everyone.”
In addition, HLN participated in the presentation of this talk on RCKMS:
In preparation for the meeting, Open Health News has published a feature article written by HLN, Clinical Decision Support Strategies for Electronic Case Reporting and its Open Source Connection.
The Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) released its 2019 edition of what it hopes will be an annual report, Ready or Not: Protecting the Public’s Health from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism last February. The ground-breaking report warns about key global challenges ahead, like the risk of a flu pandemic; the impact of weather pattern changes due to climate change; the dangers of antimicrobial resistance, and others, and tries to offer advice on how to prepare for them.
In Section 1 of the report, titled Health Threats: A Review of 2018, the authors review a litany of disease outbreaks, and severe weather and natural disaster events. They note the incidents, actions, and corresponding research findings, meetings, and events related to each. On the policy front, they note the September 2018 release by the White House of its National Biodefense Strategy (see earlier article on this topic). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released another report, Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Capabilities, in October 2018 (updated in January 2019). This section of the TFAH report also reviews the various activities of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense.
HLN joined more than eighty organizations, institutions and companies in imploring Congress to fund public health surveillance systems. The appropriations request letters – one to the House and one to the Senate – is seeking $1 billion over ten years (and $100 million in FY 2020) for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to allow CDC, state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments to move from sluggish, manual, paper-based data collection to seamless, automated, interoperable IT systems and to recruit and retain skilled data scientists to use them.
HLN has been at the forefront of systems development in public health, and has long advocated for the modernization of public health registries and other systems. This initiative is focused on public health surveillance systems, and HLN’s work on the Reportable Condition Knowledge Management System (RCKMS) supports the electronic case reporting (eCR) initiative described in a flyer describing the details of this initiative published by a set of leading public health organizations.
HLN encourages everyone to advocate for these needed funds at every opportunity.