Friday, September 15, 2006

Public Health Threat legislation

Senator Hagel has proposed legislation to combat public health threats in the United States.
Hagel & Terry Introduce Bill to Coordinate the Reporting of Emergent Conditions

September 14th, 2006
- WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Representative Lee Terry (NE-02) introduced today in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives the “National Reportable Conditions Act.” Emergent conditions are cases or suspected cases of infectious diseases, contaminations and events such as chemical spills, which are of sufficient public health concern to require rapid reporting from state to national health jurisdictions. This legislation would form an advisory board that would create and update a list of emergent conditions and establish standards for reporting. Additionally, an automated federal electronic reporting system would be created to report and analyze emergent conditions. The legislation would enhance inter-agency coordination by certifying a list of reported conditions through the Department of Homeland Security.

“It is critical for the United States Government to have a coordinated and uniform system in place that is prepared to handle public health threats such as an act of bioterrorism or an outbreak of avian flu. This legislation will ensure the federal government responds to possible health threats in a timely manner with the correct allocation of resources,” Hagel said.

“It is short-sighted for the United States to not have a nationally coordinated public health reporting system, especially when we all recognize the serious dangers presented by pandemic illnesses and the threat of bioterrorism,” Terry said. “Nebraska’s world class research facilities makes us a natural choice to be leaders in this significant area of homeland security.”

The current system of reporting emergent conditions is voluntary, and differs across all 50 states. When states do report an emergent condition, it is currently communicated through different federal agencies. For example, the contamination of water and air is through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); food contamination is through either the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) or the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA); and infectious disease in humans through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“A gap currently exists in the nation's preparedness infrastructure for the detection of a variety of emergent conditions. This legislation will provide a national approach that is uniform and coordinated, which will be essential to the protection of the nation's health in the face of a new disease, attack or other threatening condition. In today's environment, this effort is an important step toward ensuring the safety and health of all Americans,” said Professor Steven Hinrichs, director of the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

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