Over the past decade, the Hawaii State Department of Health (HDOH) has increased its ability to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies with the help of funding from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) Cooperative Agreement.
The PHEP program was established in 1999 via modest cooperative agreement funding from CDC to upgrade department bioterrorism preparedness and response capabilities as well as epidemiology and surveillance capacities. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., and subsequent anthrax attacks through the U.S. Postal Service, the federal government increased funding streams to build capacity at the state and local levels to prepare for terrorist attacks.
The focus of the program has expanded over time to include influenza pandemics and the potential for other infectious diseases as well as environmental health threats including climate change and natural disasters. Recognition that such events also pose threats to the public’s health and well-being has grown, necessitating state programs to develop more comprehensive response plans to face these additional challenges and address potential deficits in conventional public health emergency preparedness.
In Hawaii, the PHEP program is managed by the Disease Outbreak Control Division. In November 2002, a specific PHEP program branch was established to plan and administer the CDC cooperative agreement. Critical public health staff persons were added to the program including: planners, trainers, health educators, communications specialists, epidemiologists, emergency response coordinators, laboratorians, and information technology specialists. The PHEP program encompasses the entire State, with staffing, infrastructure, and preparedness activities conducted in all four island counties: Hawaii, Kauai, Maui, and Oahu. The efforts and accomplishments of the PHEP program have increased the State's capacity to prepare for all-hazards emergencies and ensured that the tools are in place for a robust public health response across the State even as threats evolve and emerge.
This report is meant to provide a thoughtful look back at and brief summary of some of the PHEP program’s major milestones and achievements over the past decade as well as the challenges and opportunities as it moves into the next decade. It is hoped that this report will provide a sense of where the program was before 9/11 and an understanding of some of its critical contributions to ensuring Hawaii’s public health preparedness. On this continuing journey, the PHEP program will continue to evolve and work to protect the health, safety, and well being of Hawaii’s people.