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GAO: HHS Could Make Improvements in Some Areas of its Infectious Disease Threat Preparedness Programs

A GAO report has found that the majority of awardees in HHS’s key preparedness and capacity-building programs met their targets, but in some areas results were mixed.

Over a 15-year period, HHS awarded about $3 billion to states and others to respond to specific disease threats, such as Zika, Ebola, and H1N1 pandemic influenza.

HHS awarded an additional $18 billion for more general public health preparedness and capacity-building activities, such as getting ready for infectious disease threats and terrorist events.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has three key preparedness and capacity-building programs—Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Infectious Diseases (ELC), the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP), and Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP). These three programs awarded about $21.2 billion to states and other jurisdictions from 2002 through 2017 to carry out public health preparedness and response efforts, including those related to infectious diseases, natural disasters, or terrorist events. Of this amount, $18.4 billion were awards funded from annual appropriations. The remaining was funded from supplemental appropriations to respond to specific infectious disease threats, including Zika, Ebola, and H1N1 pandemic influenza. HHS officials and non-federal stakeholders told GAO that supplemental appropriations were important for supporting necessary surges in capacity, but the timing of additional awards can limit response.

HHS’s three key preparedness and capacity-building programs measure performance in four areas that directly relate to infectious disease preparedness capacity—electronic lab reporting, epidemiology capacity, laboratory capacity, and responder protection. The majority of awardees (states and other jurisdictions) met targets for all nine measures in the responder protection area, which measures activities related to safety and coordination for responders. However, awardee performance in the other three areas was mixed.

In electronic lab reporting, one of two performance measures was met, and one of three measures was met in epidemiology capacity. Five of the six performance measures were met in laboratory capacity.

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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