The Role of Logistics in Public Health Practice
“Tools are needed to assure timely and appropriate care and to assess the efficacy of these interventions in restoring the health of the affected community and thereby increasing the resilient recovery from an event.”
Implementing The National Health Security Strategy
Part 1 of 5
Written by RADM Craig Vanderwagen, M.D., USPHS (Retired)
This essay is one in a series exploring the issues that affect the success of the public health practitioner in meeting the needs of the public’s health, and by doing so, increasing the resilience of communities and the Nation.
The series takes as its guiding framework,the National Health Security Strategy (NHSS) developed and released by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in December 2009. The development and public release of this strategic document was directed by Congress as part of the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act of December 2006. The document is the product of a wide variety of stakeholder discussions and an examination of the real threat issues confronting the Nation. It is a national document, not just a federal document.
The NHSS has 10 stated strategic goals. This series will not address each of them, but will explore practical applications of tools that will be major elements in the successful achievement of at least four of them (Integrated/Scalable Health Care Systems; Effective Countermeasure Enterprise; Post Incident Recovery; and Situational Awareness) and add materially to the achievement of at least two others (Science, Evaluation, and Quality Assurance Improvements and Timely and Effective Communications). By bringing focus and effort to these practical considerations the public health practitioner can indeed contribute to the implementation and success of the NHSS which is a portion of or overall national security enterprise.
This essay broadly examines the importance of managing the movement of supplies, personnel, and patients in execution of various public health interventions. Following essays will more focusedly consider aspects of this broader field of logistics. While the series utilizes lessons learned in disaster events primarily, it will also suggest the need for effective logistical skill in completing the more routine tasks of public health. It is intended to underscore the importance of planning, the acquisition of the right tools and people, and the necessary attention to the details of the intervention and its requirements. Without these principles fully engaged, the success of the desired intervention will falter.
Public health has traditionally been viewed as a preventive activity aimed at populations rather than individuals. This is the core of public health practice and depends on the gathering and analysis of information about the health status and risk factors affecting health. Based on this application of technical tools and methods, interventions are planned and executed to address those factors which may adversely influence the health of the population of interest.