Public Health Emergency Preparedness

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In the United States government, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (or ASPR), formerly the Office of Public Health Emergency Preparedness (or OPHEP), is a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Office of Public Health Emergency Preparedness, was established in June 2002 at the request of Tommy Thompson. In July 2006, a bill to amend the Public Health Service Act with respect to public health security and all-hazards preparedness and response was introduced. On December 19, 2006 it became public law and OPHEP was officially changed to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

Its scope of activity includes but is not limited to preparedness for bioterrorism, chemical and nuclear attack, mass evacuation and decontamination. [1] The ASPR the Secretary's principal advisor on matters related to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies. They are responsible for coordinating interagency activities between HHS, other Federal departments, agencies, offices and State and local officials responsible for emergency preparedness and the protection of the civilian population from acts of bioterrorism and other public health emergencies. The ASPR also works closely with global partners to address common threats around the world, enhancing national capacities to detect and respond to suchthreats, and to learn from each other’s experiences as another step toward national health security for the United States and other countries.[2]


The first head of OPHEP was Donald Henderson, credited with having previously eradicated Smallpox. Soon Jerry Hauer, a veteran public health expert, took over as director, with Henderson taking a different role in the department. Hauer was removed from the job primarily for conflicts he had with Scooter Libby over whether the risks of smallpox vaccination were worth the benefit. Hauer charged that the Office of the Vice President was pushing for the universal vaccination despite the vaccine's health risks, primarily exaggerate the risk of biological terrorism.

RADM W. Craig Vanderwagen, M.D., was sworn into office on March 27, 2007 as the first Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and recently retired.

RADM Nicole Lurie, MD, MSPH is the current ASPR.

The United States National Response Framework (NRF) is part of the National Strategy for Homeland Security that presents the guiding principles enabling all levels of domestic response partners to prepare for and provide a unified national response to disasters and emergencies. Building on the existing National Incident Management System (NIMS) as well as Incident Command System (ICS) standardization, the NRF's coordinating structures are always in effect for implementation at any level and at any time for local, state, and national emergency or disaster response.

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