HHS to take charge of bioterror and epidemic response

Published 13 December 2006

Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act expected to be signed soon; DHS loses control of National Disaster Medical System; new biomedical research lab to be built; government plans a disease detection network

The final days of any congress tend to be lackluster affairs, but this year, despite all the acrimony engendered by the midterm elections, members did manage to pass the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act. In addition to providing $824 million to fund public health preparedness, create an advanced biomedical research agency under HHS, and develop a nationwide, near-real-time disease detection network, the bill also effects a major organizational change in the way emergencies are managed at the federal level.

Assuming President Bush signs the bill as expected, the Department of Health and Human Services will take complete control of the medical response to bioterrorism attacks or disease outbreaks. (The responsibility for manginging the National Disaster Medical System was previously held by DHS.) The bill also establishes within HHS the new position of assistant secretary of preparedness and response. His office will also coordinate state and local response efforts and oversee advanced bioterrorism and pandemic research and development efforts.

-read more in this GovHealthIT report