Michigan Strengthens Its Public Health Emergency Response Capabilities

Contact: James McCurtis Jr. (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

September 28, 2010

LANSING - A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that state and local health departments have made significant progress toward building and strengthening the nation's public health emergency preparedness and response capabilities.

The report, Public Health Preparedness: Strengthening the Nation's Emergency Response State by State, presents data on a broad range of preparedness and response activities taking place at state and local health departments across the nation. Being prepared to prevent, respond to, and recover from all types of public health threats - such as disease outbreaks, chemical releases, or natural disasters - requires that public health departments improve their capabilities in surveillance and epidemiology, laboratories, and response readiness.

Accomplishments highlighted in the report for the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) include:

- All 9 Laboratory Response Network (LRN) biological laboratories in Michigan could test for specific biological agents. The laboratories passed 9 out of 9 proficiency tests to evaluate their abilities to receive, test, and report on one or more suspected biological agents to CDC.

- The MDCH Bureau of Laboratories, Division of Chemistry and Toxicology has the capability to respond when the public is exposed to chemical agents. The laboratory successfully demonstrated proficiency in 6 out of 6 core methods for rapidly detecting and measuring certain chemical agents that can cause severe health effects.

- The MDCH Bureau of Epidemiology has a 24/7 reporting capacity system that could receive urgent disease reports at any time.

- The Office of Public Health Preparedness received a score of 100 out of 100 from CDC for its plans to receive stage, distribute, and dispense medical assets received from CDC's Strategic National Stockpile or other sources. (Note: a score of 69 or higher was acceptable.)

- To improve their readiness to respond, the Office of Public Health Preparedness activated its Community Health Emergency Coordination Center (CHECC) as part of an exercise 4 times, and staff reported 4 out of 4 times to the CHECC within the target time of 2.5 hours.

- The Office of Public Health Preparedness assessed their response and developed 4 after action reports following the exercises and the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic with improvement plans to maximize their capabilities.

Public health threats are always present, whether caused by natural, accidental, or intentional means. Incidents such as the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic and other disease outbreaks and natural disasters that have occurred recently underscore the importance of communities being prepared for all types of hazards. The 2010 CDC report indicates that the surge in effort needed to respond to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic placed an increased strain on a public health system already weakened by workforce shortages and budget shortfalls. Preparing adequately for future outbreaks - and other public health emergencies that are inevitable and may occur simultaneously - requires predictable and adequate long-term funding to sustain and improve the public health infrastructure, staffing, and training.

The report and state specific information for Michigan is available on CDC's Web site at http://emergency.cdc.gov/publications/2010phprep.