HHS to provide grants for public health preparedness

The Health and Human Services Department is distributing $1.1 billion in grant money this year to state and local public health departments, hospitals and other health systems to strengthen their preparedness for terrorism attacks, disasters and major epidemics, officials announced Tuesday.

For the sixth year in a row, the preparedness funding comes through two HHS programs established after the terrorist attacks of 2001. A significant portion of the funding has been paying for information technology systems, including bed and resource tracking systems and communications, alert and security systems.
Under Public Health Emergency Preparedness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is making available $704.8 million to public health departments in states and territories as well as in Chicago, Los Angeles County, New York City and Washington, D.C.

In addition, the HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response is awarding $398 million through the Hospital Preparedness Program.

"These funds will continue to enhance community readiness by increasing the capabilities of health departments, hospitals and health care delivery systems to respond to any public health emergency," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said in a news release.

According to HHS officials, the 2008 funding will pay for:
  • Interoperable communication systems.
  • Systems to track available hospital beds.
  • Advance registration of volunteer health professionals.
  • Processes for hospital evacuations or sheltering-in-place.
  • Processes for fatality management.
  • Strengthening health care partnerships at the community level.

Systems for interoperable communications, tracking, registration and credentialing provide substantial business opportunities for government contractors. The purchasing of goods and services with the grant money is likely to be guided by state and local public health departments and hospitals.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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