TPHC: State’s Preparedness for Public Health Emergencies

Interim Charge on State’s Preparedness for Public Health Emergencies: Testimony by Eduardo Sanchez, MD, for Texas Public Health Coalition

House Public Health Committee
Chair, Texas Public Health Coalition

Feb. 10, 2016

The Texas Public Health Coalition (TPHC) is an alliance of more than 30 health-professional and health-focused organizations dedicated to disease prevention and health promotion, and we appreciate the opportunity to submit testimony to assist in the Public Health Committee’s work and charge in reviewing the state’s preparedness and response during public health emergencies. 

The ability to plan for and respond to public health threats in a well-organized and efficient manner is necessary to protect and preserve the health of Texans when urgent situations arise. To accomplish this, we must ensure our systems have the capacity to respond to such situations through investment in infrastructure, sustainable resources for providers at both the state and local level, and the ability to track and use data to inform decision making. 

For example, by investing in and using a system such as ImmTrac, the state ensures practitioners are able to identify not only who is immunized, but also vulnerable populations such as pediatric patients or immunocompromised children who may not be protected by immunizations. These susceptible persons and populations must receive appropriate protections to curb any additional, preventable harm during an emergency communicable-diseases response effort. By using systems such as these, health care professionals will be better equipped to respond to public health threats and minimize potential harm.  

We encourage the committee to examine the need to improve communications between state and local entities for proper response in emergent situations. Roles in public health emergencies must be clear, and guidance must be disseminated quickly to all appropriate entities: This is one of our best defenses in managing threats to public health. Current communication strategies are inadequate to alert the most affected physicians and health care providers. For example, during the Ebola outbreak, the Texas Nurses Association and Texas Medical Association had to step in and provide a town hall summit as a conduit of information for those health care professionals because little information and guidance were available. Thousands joined the live conference call. These efforts cost funds and would best be facilitated by state coordination in the future. 

With the Department of State Health Services’ compilation of the Public Health Inventory of Services, we have an opportunity to learn from our communities where gaps in emergency response exist, identify preparedness deficits in our communities, and understand what would be most helpful in developing and supporting an improved public health system. With this information, the state and local providers can make informed decisions on how to best strengthen public health capacity and how to proactively advance our public health emergency response. Doing so is critical to improving our public health capacity. 

Thank you again for the opportunity to provide input as the committee reviews public health threats and emergency response efforts. As the committee gathers information, we continue to emphasize the ongoing need to support local entities and increase communication at the state and local level, continue to invest in public health capacity, and use the findings from the Public Health Inventory of Services. We are pleased to note that Texas Medical Association, Texas Pediatric Society, Texas Association of City and County Health Officials, and other members of TPHC are providing separate testimony. We are united on the themes around improving Texas’ public health response. TPHC is available to serve as a resource to the committee. We ask that you ensure these efforts are sustained, and that conclusions from the Public Health Inventory of Services are incorporated into the Legislative Budget Board budget request and included in ongoing agency efforts to improve our public health emergency response. None of our communities can risk anything less.  

2016 TPHC Members-Donors-Resources

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
American Heart Association
American Lung Association
Arthritis Foundation South Central Region
Bexar County Medical Society
BlueCross BlueShield of Texas
Children’s Hospital Association of Texas
The Cooper Institute
Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services
HealthStart Foundation
The Immunization Partnership
March of Dimes
Methodist Healthcare Ministries
Texas Academy of Family Physicians
Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Texas Academy of Physician Assistants
Texas Association of City and County Health Officials
Texas Association of Community Health Centers
Texas Dental Association
Texas e-Health Alliance
Texas Health Institute
Texas Hospital Association
Texas Medical Association, Council on Science and Public Health
Texas Nurses Association
Texas Pediatric Society
Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility
Texas Public Health Association
Texas Renal Coalition
Texas State Alliance of YMCAs
Travis County Medical Society
United Ways of Texas
Cancer Alliance of Texas
Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas
Department of State Health Services
MD Anderson Cancer Center
Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living
National Ovarian Cancer Coalition
Partnership for a Healthy Texas
San Antonio Mayor’s Fitness Council
Texas Action for Healthy Kids
Texas Area Health Education Center
Texas Life Science Foundation

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Last Updated On

March 08, 2017