Updated Mar 23, 2023 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on improving American public health preparedness

On Thursday, March 23, Axios senior health care editor Adriel Bettelheim and health care editor Tina Reed led conversations exploring how the U.S. can improve its public health preparedness and why doing so is crucial. Guests included Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense executive director Asha M. George, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Health Security director Tom Inglesby, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services assistant secretary for preparedness and response Dawn O’Connell. A View from the Top sponsored segment featured Emergent president and chief executive officer Robert Kramer.

Asha M. George shared her insights on investing in pandemic preparedness so that government agencies have the capability to respond to future public health crises without relying only on emergency supplemental funding.

  • On future preparedness plans: “We have to get to a point where we are sustaining our investments in a way that is different from an endless series of emergency supplementals…I don’t know what that takes to go from where we are now to something more akin to what we see in the Department of Defense, and actually other departments as well. Everybody’s not floating around trying to exist on emergency supplementals, we have to do that on the preparedness side.”

Tom Inglesby discussed strengthening supply and distribution systems for everything from testing kist to PPE to prepare for potential future public health emergencies.

  • On testing strategies: “So on testing, we all saw or experienced the early days of COVID where we were in March, April and really struggling to get tests, struggling to understand the extent of disease around the country. We should be prepared in the next pandemic to have not only the technology that gets us to test development, but also the distribution systems to get tests across the country and free as they have been really in the second part or really the latter half of the pandemic.”

Dawn O’Connell explained how she is working to seek expanded authorities for HHS to be able to move contracts more quickly and respond faster to future threats.

  • On advocating for expanded HHS authorities in PAHPA reauthorization: “One of the things we’re taking into account as we look at this round of PAHPA is making sure that we’re accounting for the lessons learned. You know, we are not the same organization we were three years ago at the start of this pandemic, nor should we be. So how do I account for that? How do I make sure that our authorities have kept up with our responsibilities?”

In the View from the Top segment, Robert Kramer emphasized the importance of sustained investments in various public health preparedness measures.

  • “Investment in public health preparedness is not something that you can do every other year. It requires constant attention because, you know, to use the sports analogy, when it’s game time, that’s not when you want to start preparing. You want to have preparations well in advance. You want these public private partnerships to be established, to be collaborative, to be open, so we’re all working toward the same goal together. And when it works well, it really works well, but it takes time, attention, and importantly, investments.”

Thank you Emergent for sponsoring this event.

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