NGA: Public health is part and parcel of homeland security

The fact that 10 percent of the health departments in the United States still lacked basic e-mail systems as recently as five years ago is just one indication that public health lags behind other emergency management agencies from a technology standpoint, according to a new report by the National Governors Association.

The report, titled'States Strategies for Fully Integrating Public Health into Homeland Security,' released this week by NGA's Center for Best Practices, calls on states to bring public health agencies up to speed technologically and give public health more attention in homeland security planning.

According to the report, the lack of integration of homeland security structures that public health agencies are experiencing is hindered by a culture that is sometimes at odds with the decision-making approaches favored by other first-responder agencies and a public health infrastructure that has lagged behind other response agencies.

To better integrate public health into homeland security structures, NGA urges states to:
  • Ensure public health officials have active representation within any homeland security governance or decision-making structure

  • Encourage public health input in homeland security planning through strategic planning activities, national stockpile distribution and pandemic influenza planning

  • Pursue a multidisciplinary approach toward overall exercising and train first responders at both statewide and regional levels as necessary and

  • Take advantage of disease surveillance systems and ensure that public health has representation in intelligence fusion centers and in other intelligence sharing efforts.

The report notes that Pennsylvania and Maryland have successfully integrated public health expertise and resources in their fusion centers, and that Pennsylvania has developed a particularly strong disease surveillance system.

William Welsh is the deputy editor of Government Computer News' sister publication Washington Technology.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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