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Strategic Goal 1

National Health Security Strategy (NHSS), 2023-2026

Strategic Goal 1 icon Strategic Goal 1:
Strengthen health care and public health systems to prepare for and respond to concurrent health emergencies, including those that arise from unknown threats

HPH systems play a vital role in maintaining national health security during both steady state and emergency response. As seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, health care facilities and public health departments were overwhelmed due to surges in patients, workforce shortages, and supply scarcity. Underserved communities are disproportionally impacted by emergencies while still facing challenges accessing health care. Additionally, extreme weather, infectious disease spread, and cyberattacks can occur simultaneously, further stressing HPH infrastructure and workforce. A bolstered and diverse health workforce along with resilient and adaptable health infrastructure can strengthen the nation’s preparedness, response, and recovery capabilities and capacity.

Significant events like the COVID-19 pandemic, extreme weather events, and mass casualty disasters can test the wellbeing of a community and disproportionately impact underserved communities. These events occurring in communities with a history of chronic stress, trauma experienced across generations, marginalization, and structural inequity can lead to worsened health outcomes.[38] Engaging communities on improving overall wellness, promoting healthy behaviors, and supporting mental health, will reduce health disparities and improve community resilience before, during, and after disasters.

The specific needs of a community should be understood and addressed before, during, and after emergencies to foster resilience, equity, and effectively implement response and recovery actions. All communities, including diverse population groups, should be engaged throughout the entire preparedness cycle, from evaluating specific needs, designing response and recovery plans, and exercising those plans. Community leaders should focus on empowering social connectedness, engaging underserved populations, integrating physical and mental wellness into emergency preparedness, and promoting access to mental health and social services. Health officials should continue to build partnerships with trusted community leaders and tailor preparedness efforts at the local level to ensure that diverse community perspectives are considered.

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