Public Health Emergency Preparedness
This resource was part of AHRQ's Public Health Emergency Preparedness program, which was discontinued on June 30, 2011, in a realignment of Federal efforts.
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The Bioterrorism Initiative of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) supports research in assessing and improving the U.S. health care system's capacity to respond to possible incidents of bioterrorism. The initiative examines the preparedness of the frontline staff as well as linkages between these health care components and local and State public health departments and emergency responders.
The purpose of the AHRQ project "Understanding Needs for Health System Preparedness and Capacity for Bioterrorist Attacks" was to develop and pilot test tools to assess the current capacity of hospitals and health systems to respond to a bioterrorist attack. Focusing on two large university and two community hospitals, the project used a data collection tool (PDF File, 135 KB [PDF Help]; Text Version), model criteria, and a simulation and analysis model.
With the attacks of September 11, 2001, public attention has increasingly focused on the realization that the Nation's health care system is ill prepared to respond to mass casualty incidents. This concern was heightened by the anthrax cases that followed in October 2001, which drew attention to bioterrorism and the various aspects of preparedness planning as it relates to mass casualty care due to infectious disease outbreaks.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) recognized, even before then, that clinicians, hospitals, and health care systems have essential roles in the public health infrastructure. In fall 2000, AHRQ's Bioterrorism Initiative provided support for research in assessing and improving the U.S. health care system's capacity to respond to possible incidents of bioterrorism. Specifically, this initiative examined the preparedness of the frontline staff—including primary care providers, emergency departments, and hospitals—as well as the linkages between these health care components and local and State public health departments and emergency responders.
The purpose of the AHRQ project "Understanding Needs for Health System Preparedness and Capacity for Bioterrorist Attacks" was to develop and pilot test tools to assess the current capacity of hospitals and health systems to respond to a bioterrorist attack, in particular the capacity of existing hospital and public health systems to communicate and to develop an effective medical response to a bioterrorist threat. This 18-month project also described opportunities to improve existing clinical emergency management programs, innovative approaches to increasing the patient care capacity of hospital systems, and model plans for hospital and health systems.
Because this study had been underway for more than 12 months when the September 11th attacks and subsequent anthrax cases occurred, this project measured pre-September 11th preparedness and capacity. Progress achieved since then would be a topic for future study.
This pilot assessment focused on two large university hospitals and two community hospitals. The methodology for assessing regional medical capacity and plans is composed of:
- The data collection tool (PDF File, 135 KB [PDF Help]; Text Version).
- Model criteria.
- Use of a prototype modified government off-the-shelf simulation and analysis model.
This methodology could be further refined in a larger study and pilot tested in a region to identify additional needs and requirements.
Once completed, this methodology could be used by city and State planners to assess medical capacity and the adequacy of emergency medical response plans. Developing this standardized approach would help State planners better communicate medical resource needs for a bioterrorist event or other mass casualty event.
Current as of August 2002