• When Disaster Strikes

    Be Prepared

    Emergency Preparedness

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  • Emergency Preparedness

    Support from HHS 

    At AOHC in Kansas City, members of the Occupational Health Advisory Committee (OH AC) presented a session to engage and discuss plans for an Occupational Health Coordinating Group. At the session, a video from Dr. William Raub, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness at the Department of Health and Human Services, was presented to illustrate the importance of occupational medicine and this initiative.

    Below are his remarks:

    “Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I am Bill Raub, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness at the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C. I appreciate very much the opportunity to drop in electronically to your meeting, and I regret that I cannot be there in person.

    I'm preaching to the choir when I say that occupational medicine is absolutely indispensable for the health and safety of American workers. And yet occupational medicine is an undervalued asset when it comes to public health emergency preparedness.

    Consider the following examples. If we were to suffer a bioterrorist attack. And that attack produced an outbreak of infectious disease. Occupational medicine physicians and nurses would be on the front line of identifying cases and reporting them to the public health departments. You therefore are part and parcel of the infectious disease surveillance infrastructure. The heart of our preparedness.

    At the same time, in response to such an outbreak, public health officials would take many different steps and in virtually all of them, occupational medicine professionals would be central. For example, public health officials could launch an epidemiologic investigation and call upon occupational medicine officials among others to ensure that they identify cases and thereby characterize the nature of the epidemic and the scope of the area affected by it.

    Second, public communications would be very important. And the public health authorities would want to get a clear and concise message out through many channels to the larger public including those in the work place. And again occupational medicine would be central to that.

    Third, mass prophylaxis might be required, either vaccination or drugs. And again occupational medicine physicians and nurses could be central to the community response in providing that prophylactic.

    Because of the importance of this, my office engages the MITRE Corporation as technical assistants in dealing with a variety of these issues. And we've put the services and capabilities of the MITRE Corporation at the disposal to our colleagues in occupational medicine to help them decide how best they might proceed to enhance their capabilities with respect to public health emergency preparedness.

    Now none of this occurs in a vacuum. Rather it is part and parcel of our homeland security preparations and the war on terrorism. A few months back, President Bush signed Homeland Security Presidential Directive number 7 which focuses on critical infrastructure. Within that framework, my office has been working with a private sector group called the Healthcare Sector Coordinating Council to focus on the preparedness of hospitals and particularly the vulnerabilities of the hospital infrastructure.

    We are complimenting that work by interactions with our colleagues in the public health departments across the country as well as colleagues in the medical supply chain industry all important facets of public health emergency preparedness. We are pleased to have interactions with the occupational medicine community as part of those efforts. Our efforts in turn parallel similar ones in other sectors of the economy and other parts of our national life. And so comparable efforts go in transportation, electric power generation, fire and EMS, and financial services, to name only a few. We are part of a large and very important effort to ensure that our homeland is protected and that we are ready to respond to terrorism, should it occur.

    We look forward to continue working with our colleagues in occupational medicine. MITRE Corporation will provide the technical assistance as it can and we wish you a very productive meeting. Thank you very much.”

    William Raub, PhD
    Acting Assistant Secretary, Public Health Emergency Preparedness
    Department of Health and Human Services
    TapedApril 16, 2004