The Meaning of a Public Health Emergency
Last week, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) made this declaration for Florida, South Carolina, and Puerto Rico after determining that the devastation of Hurricane Iain required urgent response from the federal government. Recent public health emergencies include COVID-19, Monkeypox, and the opioid epidemic; naming an event as such allows agencies within HHS to bypass the typically lengthy process to make grants, enter into contracts, and rapidly investigate the cause, treatment, or prevention of a disease or disorder. For natural disasters, this means putting personnel from the National Disaster Medical System on the ground in affected areas and collaboration with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and regional coordinators of HHS’s Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response, also known as ASPR. The Rural Health Information Hub has a wealth of information on the challenges specific to rural areas, along with links to resources for disaster preparedness and response.