Improving US health sector resilience

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A recent report by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in the US states that the US health sector would be better equipped to manage medical care needs during emergencies by empowering existing healthcare coalitions to connect community resilience efforts with a network of hospitals equipped to handle disasters.

Dr Eric Toner, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins and Principal Investigator on the report, which is entitled A Framework for Healthcare Disaster Resilience: A View to the Future, worked with co-authors Drs Monica Schoch-Spana, Richard Waldhorn, Matthew Shearer and Tom Inglesby, also of the Center.

According to the team, there are four distinct categories of disaster that could cause significant illness or injury, and for which there are preparedness gaps, likely due to differing operational changes and resource needs. The researchers found that while the US health sector is reasonably well prepared for relatively small mass injury/illness events that happen frequently, such as tornadoes and local disease outbreaks, it is less prepared for large-scale disasters such as hurricanes, complex mass casualty events such as bombings, and catastrophic health events such as severe pandemics and large-scale bioterrorism.

The authors’ recommendations for closing gaps are to: build a centre of resilience, create a network of disaster centres of excellence, increase support for healthcare coalitions, and designate a federal co-ordinator for catastrophic health event preparedness.

"We wondered what an optimal system would look like and how we would get there," said Dr Toner. "Change is needed, but the change should be evolutionary, not revolutionary. We need to build on the resources we already have."