Reactive to Proactive – Building Community Health Resilience

Emily Lord

Emily Lord is the Executive Director for Rx Response Program. She directs non-emergency program activities and leads the program’s support team when responding to emergencies. Emily’s expertise focuses on business continuity and resilience.

It’s springtime again and what that means to me is an opportunity to start over and embrace change. It’s also time for the annual Public Health Preparedness (PHP) Summit in Atlanta. This is one of my favorite events as it shines a light on all the hard work state and local public health have accomplished in the past year, and introduces participants to new trends and innovative solutions to take back home. It’s always important to have occasions to connect with your colleagues, but the opportunity this conference provides has become especially vital with the massive cuts health agencies around the country have experienced over the past few years.

The 2015 conference’s focus on infectious disease comes at a critical time. The Ebola epidemic last year focused our attention on the need to be prepared for just public health crises. It also served as a reminder that the best way to build resilience in the U.S. and protect the public is not to continue with a reactive model, where funding jumps from crisis to crisis. We need to shift our approach and focus on the need to create a sustained public health preparedness infrastructure that allows skills and knowledge to prosper.

Rx Response has also been in a reactive mode, waiting and preparing to activate, to jump into action when disasters strike. This, too, has to change. After over 8 years and 55 responses, we all too often have seen the same issues contribute to barriers to community recovery. To create that change and bolster our public health infrastructure, we are focusing on tackling some of the most pervasive and persistent issues that impact medicines and supplies reaching communities in times of disaster.

We will also support resource-constrained state public health and emergency management agencies by sharing best practices from around the country, and creating relevant tools to help implement those promising practices. The essential role of these agencies has been hard enough with ever-more-limited resources, and leaving little time for those forced, year after year, to do more with less to think strategically about the future and develop community and health resilience throughout the United States.

One of our first steps in this new direction will take place next week at the PHP Summit. Next Thursday I’ll be leading a session that looks at infectious disease response from a private sector perspective and analyzes how to better include industry in government exercises and planning.

Understanding how the private sector operates and how it views a pandemic response is unique- and it’s not something many public officials understand. But supporting the whole medical supply chain directly impacts and protects patients and leads to greater economic recovery. Connecting how the public and private sectors think about disease enables us to understand the critical barriers and opportunities for assistance.

Next week is the beginning of a new chapter for Rx Response and I invite you to be a part of it. Come to our session next Thursday, April 16th, chat with us at the conference, or with comments, questions or blog ideas.