Federal public health legislation receives bipartisan support

Federal legislation aimed at improving the public health response to emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic gains bipartisan support.

America is quickly approaching one million deaths due to COVID-19. Yet almost two years into the pandemic, the US public health system remains underfunded and under-resourced, as well as politically and regionally fractured. No less than 12 federal agencies are directly involved in responding to COVID-19, yet the country is tragically unprepared to respond to the next public health crisis. 

Is there a solution? Yes. Public health reform beginning at the federal level that has funded mandates for preparedness and response. Work towards reform requires federal support to establish a national public health infrastructure through legislation, but collaboration with local and state public health agencies – as well as public support – is critical if we want to ensure that proposed solutions meet the needs of the diverse communities they serve. 

Enter the Federal Prepare for and Respond to Existing Viruses, Emerging New Threats, and Pandemics Act (PREVENT Pandemics Act). PREVENT was developed as a bipartisan effort to improve national preparedness and the response to future public health emergencies. PREVENT was introduced as a discussion draft on January 25, 2022, by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), and Richard Burr (R-NC) of the Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor & Pensions.

PREVENT is expansive. It includes directives for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to establish strategic plans, objectives, and clearly defined responsibilities to support programs and activities for a strong public health response. These objectives include:

  • Modernizing the information infrastructure to support enhanced data analytics
  • Updating biosurveillance capabilities
  • Establishing a subagency of HHS for public health communications
  • Empowering the public health workforce through enhanced training and funding

Public information on PREVENT has not provided a great deal of clarity about the proposed bill’s intent, which could be detrimental to public support. The New York Times published a story on February 4, 2022, that examined a single provision of the bill. This portion of the legislation seeks to establish a bipartisan task force to complete a comprehensive review of the country’s COVID-19 response; examine the initial emergence of COVID-19; and assess the nation’s initial and ongoing response.

However, the story made minimal mention of bipartisan support for the primary intent of the bill – to strengthen public health preparedness and response. Instead, it highlighted efforts to chase down the origins of COVID-19 and find fault with the ongoing response.

For PREVENT to advance into law, it is critical that the healthcare industry, public health officials, and citizens are informed and engaged to shape this legislation. The discussion draft and proposed legislation are freely available for review. Many organizations – including the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the Health Center Advocacy Network and the Bipartisan Policy Center – support PREVENT because a connected, sustainable, and adaptable public health system is crucial to protect our communities – and our nation.

For more about IMO’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.

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