WASHINGTON July 24, 2023 – The United States has significant gaps in its pandemic and public health emergency response system leaving it unprepared for future emergencies, says the American College of Physicians (ACP) in a new policy paper published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Preparing for Future Pandemics and Public Health Emergencies: An American College of Physicians Policy Position Paper makes recommendations about what needs to be done to ensure the U.S. is in a strong position to mitigate the consequences of future pandemics.
“The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare how inadequate our country’s public health system is in responding to emergency situations,” said Omar T. Atiq, MD, FACP, president, ACP. “A serious lack of coordination, leadership and resources combined to result in a huge human and financial toll on Americans.”
In the new paper ACP calls for a federal pandemic preparedness plan that is adequately funded and prioritizes health equity. They also ask that federal and state agencies provide consistent and timely communications about risk and strategies to combat risk in order to build trust and combat misinformation. They call for a national public health data infrastructure capable of real-time bidirectional data sharing among public and private public health stakeholders. The paper recommends securing and bolstering the health care supply chain. They also call for improved support for a health care workforce that is sufficient to provide surge capacity in emergencies, including the development of a reserve of physicians and other health care professionals. ACP affirms the importance of safety and well-being during emergencies, this must include safety for the public, patients and physicians and other professionals. The paper also calls attention to the need for support for medical practices during emergencies, measures to reduce infections in workplaces, and universal sick leave policies. Finally, ACP calls for expedited and equitable vaccine development and distribution, vaccine use in accordance with scientific recommendations, and ACP calls on physicians to promote vaccine uptake among their patients.
The recommendations in today’s paper need to be built on a strong public health sector, as outlined in a paper published in the Annals of Internal Medicine last week. Modernizing the United States’ Public Health Infrastructure: A Position Paper from the American College of Physicians, updates recommendations ACP made in 2012 for the U.S. public health infrastructure with new policies on establishing federal public health leadership, protecting public health workers, reversing workforce shortages, and the need to integrate primary care and public health.
“We know that the COVID-19 pandemic will not be the last public health emergency that our country is faced with,” concluded Dr. Atiq. “We need to take action now to make sure that we are prepared for future pandemics and public health emergencies. If the recommendations we make in this paper were in place in 2020 we may have been able to mitigate some of the horrific consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. We owe it to our patients, the public, and our nation’s physicians and other health care professionals to equip our country to respond.”
An accompanying editorial by Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH, former White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, suggests that there are significant gaps to address in the American public health response to COVID-19 and future pandemics, but there are several key areas where there were successes to be improved upon for the future. Dr. Jha highlights the success of scaled and sustained pandemic-era innovations, including rapid testing and treatment mobile units and Operation Warp Speed. He also emphasizes the role of physicians and healthcare professionals as trusted sources of information to patients and the importance of professional organizations like ACP to lead physicians in speaking to patients exposed to medical misinformation. Finally, he argues for greater partnership between healthcare institutions and public health agencies, particularly focusing on greater data integration and the use of healthcare workers as a reserve for public health crises.
About the American College of Physicians
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 160,000 internal medicine physicians, related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Contact: Andrew Hachadorian, (215) 351-2514, firstname.lastname@example.org