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Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security Collaborates with CDC to Strengthen Health Sector Resilience

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health collaborated with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop an evidence-informed checklist that outlines action steps for medical and public health officials to assess and strengthen the resilience of their community’s health sector to high-consequence infectious disease (HCID) events.

The checklist bridges a planning gap in building resilience to HCID events by offering comprehensive guidance on recommended improvements to the interconnected preparedness and response capabilities of the public, private, and community organizations that comprise local health sectors. Other HCID resilience efforts currently underway focus exclusively on specific aspects of HCID preparedness and response, like clinical treatment guidelines or biocontainment units, rather than the broad range of entities and operations that make up the health sector response.

“One of the key findings of our research is the diversity of people who end up being involved in a response and how interrelated they are, including many who never expected to be involved,” said Dr. Eric Toner, senior associate at the Center and the project’s principal investigator. “Therefore, many more stakeholders must participate in planning, and they are eager for firsthand information from others who have experienced an HCID event.”

The team’s full report, “Health Sector Resilience Checklist for High-Consequence Infectious Diseases—Informed by the Domestic US Ebola Response,” analyzes the firsthand experience of handling confirmed cases of Ebola virus disease in four U.S. cities (Atlanta, Dallas, New York, and Omaha) and identifies challenges and solutions to both common and unique problems faced by these cities, in particular highlighting unanticipated issues. The checklist is derived from these salient lessons learned and broadened to cover other, similar HCIDs (e.g., smallpox, SARS, MERS, and H5N1 influenza A).

Health sector resilience requires the collective commitment of individuals and organizations responsible for HCID preparedness and response at the state and local level. The checklist makes recommendations of value to all of these stakeholders, including healthcare systems and facilities, public health departments, emergency medical services, public and private diagnostic laboratories, elected officials, law enforcement, academia, and community-based organizations that represent affected populations.

Detailed findings in the report, along with the resilience checklist, are the result of more than a year of interviews, discussions, research, and analysis. The project was supported by funding from the CDC.

More information is available at centerforhealthsecurity.org.