Policy implications of public health workforce development for disaster preparedness in the United States

Prasad Venkata Vara Puvvala, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Public health efforts were initiated in the United States with legislative actions for enhancing food safety and ensuring pure drinking water. Some additional policy initiatives during the early 20th century helped organize and coordinate relief efforts for victims of natural disasters. By 1950's the federal government expanded its role for providing better health and safety to the communities, and its disaster relief activities became more structured. A rise in terrorism related incidents during the late 1990's prompted new proactive policy directions. The traditional policy and program efforts for rescue, recovery, and relief measures changed focus to include disaster preparedness and countermeasures against terrorism. The study took a holistic approach by analyzing all major disaster related policies and programs, in regard to their structure, process, and outcome. Study determined that United States has a strong disaster preparedness agenda and appropriate programs are in place with adequate policy support, and the country is prepared to meet all possible security challenges that may arise in the future. The man-made disaster of September 11th gave a major thrust to improve security and enhance preparedness of the country. These new efforts required large additional funding from the federal government. Most existing preparedness programs at the local and national levels are run with federal funds which is insufficient in some cases. This discrepancy arises from the fact that federal funding for disaster preparedness programs at present are not allocated by the level of risks to individual states or according to the risks that can be assigned to critical infrastructures across the country. However, the increased role of the federal government in public health affairs of the states is unusual, and opposed to the spirit of our constitution where sovereignty is equally divided between the federal government and the states. There is also shortage of manpower in public health to engage in disaster preparedness activities, despite some remarkable progress following the September 11th disaster. Study found that there was a significant improvement in knowledge and limited number of studies showed improvement of skills, increase in confidence and improvement in message-mapping. Among healthcare and allied healthcare professionals, short-term training on disaster preparedness increased knowledge and improved personal protective equipment use with some limited improvement in confidence and skills. However, due to the heterogeneity of these studies, the results and interpretation of this systematic review may be interpreted with caution.

Subject Area

Public Health Education|Public policy|Health care management

Recommended Citation

Puvvala, Prasad Venkata Vara, "Policy implications of public health workforce development for disaster preparedness in the United States" (2010). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3397798.