Last month’s Public Health Preparedness Summit in Atlanta was a huge success. The Summit welcomed over 1,800 attendees and continues to provide a unique forum for multiple disciplines of public health to learn from each other how best to promote a culture of public health preparedness across the nation.
This year’s Summit included Town Hall Sessions where organizations such as APHL presented on important topics including “The Wild World of Public Health Laboratories: We do More than Testing for Sexually Transmitted Diseases.” This session provided attendees with an overview of public health laboratories, their role in testing for novel influenza A H1N1; detecting Salmonella typhimurium in peanut butter and identifying a nationwide outbreak; screening the nation’s newborns for genetic disorders and providing continuity of operations during natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina; and working with the Laboratory Response Network (LRN) to test hundreds of white powder threat letters sent to governors and embassies.
In addition to presentations on laboratory-specific activities, APHL’s preparedness staff, Anthony Barkey and Sikha Singh, led a session on implementing social networking tools as tomorrow’s emergency response engine for local departments of health.
One of the keynote presentations was delivered by Ana-Marie Jones, executive director of Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disaster (CARD). She emphasized the importance of simplifying messages and engaging the public as messengers. Jones encouraged public health leaders to use these tough economic times to eliminate failing programs and look at how to leverage successes of existing programs that succeed in generating measurable change.
Closing keynote speaker, Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, Director, CDC and Administrator, ATSDR, stated that preparedness is a core function for CDC. Frieden reiterated CDC’s commitment to strengthen state and local preparedness to better measure, improve and monitor public health capability; strengthen technical assistance; promote collaboration and train the public health workforce.
This conference will continue be one of the few events that bring together all the major players in the preparedness community, from emergency planners and first responders to policy makers and federal agencies. The summit is quickly becoming an event known for bringing new ideas and technology to the forefront, which is a trend that will only help to strengthen the public health community.