HHS Releases 2019-2022 National Health Security Strategy

The National Health Security Strategy outlines the top four health security threats facing the U.S. today and HHS’ plan to address these threats.

HHS Releases 2019-2022 National Health Security Strategy

The four threats include extreme weather, infectious diseases, cyber threats and CBRN threats.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released its 2019-2022 National Health Security Strategy, which includes details on several health security threats facing the U.S. today and the department’s overarching objectives to protect citizens from these threats.

Every four years, HHS and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) create the NHSS to establish a strategic approach to enhance the security of the nation’s health in times of crisis and provide a “vision for strengthening our nation’s ability to prevent, detect, assess, prepare for, mitigate, respond to, and recover from 21st century health security threats.”

The report includes the top four health security threats facing the U.S. today and its effects on the population and available resources.

Extreme Weather and Natural Disasters

According to the report, extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and severe, citing 2017 Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and the communities’ struggles in rebuilding from the storms.

A graphic from the report, seen below, also cites wildfires in the West, extreme precipitation in the Northeast, and droughts in the Southwest as health threats.

These frequent, widespread national and regional climate trends lead to a surge in required services that can overwhelm public health and medical resources, can damage or destroy health infrastructure, can further limit access to life-saving products and/or services, and can damage communities’ public health and health care systems, resulting in loss of services and economic impact.

Pandemic and Infectious Diseases

The report says along with globalization, population density acceleration, urbanization, and increased proportion of immunocompromised and/or unvaccinated individuals, comes the unintended consequence of accelerated disease transmission.

Resistance to antibiotic medicines, new strains of viruses and the reappearance of formerly eliminated diseases represent a dual threat of having pandemic potential and utility as a bioterrorism or biological warfare agent, according to the report.

The below graphic from the report shows newly emerging, re-emerging and “deliberately emerging” diseases around the globe.

Technology and Cyber Threats

While technological advancements in health care can be attributed to saving lives, the report also attributes the country’s increased use and dependence on information technologies, such as electronic health records, to the following consequences:

  1. Dependency on technology that pervades society, requiring investments in defensive systems
  2. The introduction of cyber threats characterized by exploitation of systems for monetary or political gain
  3. Accelerated availability of various types of weaponry for malicious purposes
  4. Opportunities for misuse of scientific research and sensitive or classified public health intelligence or information

The report also cites the growing field of synthetic biology, defined as a combination of biology and engineering with the goal of designing new organisms or re-designing existing cellular processes, as a security concern.

For instance, CRISPR/Cas9, a gene-editing technology, raises concerns that it could be misused to make bioweapons.

Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Threats

The report also says rapid technological advancements interact with the changing character of hostile actions, making human-caused incidents, such as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats, imminent possibilities.

The below graphic, which is updated annually by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Insitute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is a prioritized biodefense organism list and can be applied to pathogens or toxins thought to pose the highest risk to national security and public health.

Here Are the Report’s 3 Main Objectives

The NHSS also outlines its strategic approach to address these threats, including three main objectives:

  1. Prepare, mobilize, and coordinate the Whole-of-Government to bring the full spectrum of federal medical and public health capabilities to support SLTT authorities in the event of a public health emergency, disaster, or attack
  2. Protect the nation from the health effects of emerging and pandemic infectious diseases and CBRN threats
  3. Leverage the capabilities of the private sector

To achieve the first objective, the report says the areas of focus are:  

  • Providing the leadership to improve national preparedness and convene a unified, national response to public health emergencies and disasters
  • Mobilizing, coordinating, and directing the medical and public health assets of the U.S. Government
  • Promoting sustainable enhancements to SLTT medical and public health infrastructure and response capabilities and capacity
  • Evaluating the effectiveness and viability of regional disaster health response capabilities to better identify and address gaps in coordinated patient care during public health emergencies and disasters

The protect against pandemic infectious diseases and CBRN threats, areas of focus will include:

  • Continuing efforts to improve early detection of emerging and potential pandemic infectious diseases
  • Rapidly identifying, developing, producing, and making available safe, effective medical countermeasures (MCMs)
  • Maintaining the capacity to produce enough vaccines and other necessary MCMs to provide protection from pandemic influenza and CBRN agents that represent a strategic health security threat to the nation
  • Supporting SLTT authorities’ efforts to stock, and rapidly obtain, distribute, dispense, administer, and monitor the safety of MCMs

Finally, to leverage the capabilities of the private sector, the NHSS’ areas of focus will be:

  • Developing and sustaining robust public-private partnerships for MCM development and production
  • Fostering the creation of a resilient medical product supply chain
  • Incentivizing and sustaining private sector health care surge capacity for large-scale incidents

Click here for the full report.

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About the Author


Amy is Campus Safety’s Executive Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

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