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CDC Releases Strategic Plan for Public Health Preparedness

By Eric Toner, MD, September 16, 2011

On September 9, 2011, the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (OPHPR) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released A National Strategic Plan for Public Health Preparedness and Response. In a letter that accompanied the September 9, 2011, release of the document, Dr. Ali Khan, Director of OPHPR, describes the plan as “A guide for CDC, the entire public health system, and its stakeholders to secure the health of our nation. This overarching plan describes the 8 major achievements we need to accomplish in order to reach our collective vision of ‘people’s health protected—public health secured’.” 

8 Objectives with 16 Strategies

The plan describes 8 strategic objectives to be achieved by 2020. Each objective is accompanied by 1 or more strategies to be implemented through a series of initiatives, many of which are still in development. The plans objectives and corresponding strategies are detailed below. (Download full report.)

National Strategic Plan for Public Health Preparedness and Response—Objectives and Strategies



Prevent and/or mitigate threats to the public’s health

  • Increase public health involvement in national and global health security effort
  • Advance the ability to measure and address gaps in public health preparedness

Integrate public health, the healthcare system, and emergency management

  • Bolster  CDC grant and cooperative agreement coordination with federal and non-federal partners’ grants and cooperative agreements
  • Develop and promote tools that enable integration of public health, the healthcare system, and emergency management

Promote resilient individuals and communities

  • Enhance public health and healthcare system, and emergency management networks for community public health preparedness 

Advance surveillance, epidemiology, and laboratory science and service practice

  • Integrate public health preparedness and response data reporting systems and processes
  • Increase surveillance, epidemiology, and laboratory science research, equipment, modeling, and tools

Increase the application of science to preparedness and response practice

  • Expand knowledge that contributes to the reduction/mitigation of threats to the public’s health
  • Promote tools and promising practices to improve public health preparedness and response practice

Strengthen public health preparedness and response infrastructure

  • Enhance global, national, state, local, tribal, and territorial preparedness and response capabilities (e.g., 15 PHEP capabilities, including but not limited to medical countermeasure dispensing, communications, and laboratory via the provision of resources, technical assistance, and training)
  • Sustain public health system capacities (e.g., laboratory, communications, health information, emergency operations centers, response and support staff, and information technology infrastructure) for preparedness and response, and continuously assessing the adequacy of the infrastructure and systems
  • Enhance the ability to redirect infrastructure, people, and systems when necessary to address a response in collaboration with partners

Enhance stewardship of public health preparedness funds

  • Promote effective use of public health preparedness and response funding
  • Strengthen the effectiveness and timeliness of communicating the importance of preparedness to the public, elected officials, and other policymakers

Improve the ability of the public health workforce to respond to health threats

  • Enhance public health preparedness and response workforce competencies
  • Identify strategies for greater distribution capacity for and timely provision of medical countermeasures

8 Quick Wins

Eight of the plan’s initiatives have been designated as “quick wins” and are slated to be completed in the near future:

  1. Provide targeted information to policymakers highlighting the contributions of public  health preparedness as part of national security

  2. Implement a communications campaign to raise awareness about public health preparedness and the role of citizens in preparedness

  3. Develop a cadre of deployable CDC representatives to state emergency operations centers

  4. Collaborate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to define a position for health advisors in the Incident Command System

  5. Provide science-based guidance for medical countermeasure use and dispensing of products

  6. Achieve Food and Drug Administration approval of a core set of laboratory response network rapid molecular tests used by CDC to detect disease

  7. Develop a risk-based triage system for Etiologic Agent Import Permit requests

  8. Develop and promote a toolkit for state and local public health departments around the 15 capabilities in the 2011 Public Health Emergency Preparedness Cooperative Agreement to identify those that may require additional oversight activities such as on-site inspections

Challenging Times

Dr. Kahn notes that continued progress in public health preparedness is challenged by the current economic times, an eroding public health infrastructure, and the ever increasing threat of bioterrorism and emerging infectious diseases. The objectives, strategies, and initiatives described in the plan are priorities for CDC and the broader public health community.


CDC/OPHPR. A National Strategic Plan for Public Health Preparedness and Response. September 2011.

Editor’s Note: The author, Eric Toner, participated in a stakeholder input meeting during the development of this strategic plan.