In today’s global economic and political climates, the concept that there are “local” or “regional” outbreaks of disease or other public health emergencies is hopelessly outdated. Fortunately, the rapid advances in medical and communications technology have helped to limit the global impact of such emergencies. This article will provide information on the three most up-to-date and reliable sources of information on public health emergencies.
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United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The CDC is the world’s premier public health organization. Although it is primarily concerned with public health issues in the United States, it actively monitors the international public health situation as well. Two of its most valuable sources of public health information are given below.
- Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)
The MMWR is the best source of public health information regarding the United States and North America. It provides immediate coverage of all potential public health concerns with specific disease tracking on a state by state basis as well as studies on environmental health and product safety. It is available online and at any medical library.
- Emerging Infectious Diseases
In addition to its public health activity in the United States, the CDC also sponsors research into diseases that occur only sporadically and/or in isolated locations. It reports on this research in its journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. Although many of the articles are oriented toward the medical community, this journal usually contains at least one article that is written to help the layman understand the importance of monitoring an international population base. The most recent, and previous, editions are available online or at a medical library.
World Health Organization
The World Health Organization operates under the auspices of the United Nations and is primarily concerned with delivering public health services to chronically under-served and emerging nations. Since it has many public health workers in the field providing such services as water purification and immunizations, its workers are usually the first to notice the presence of emerging diseases.
- Global Alert and Response
The WHO Global Alert and Response project identifies and then directly deals with public health emergencies all over the world. In recent years it has played an important role in limiting the spread of both Avian and Swine Influenza beyond areas where such conditions are endemic in local domesticated animals.
- Humanitarian Health Action
The goal of the WHO’s Humanitarian Health Action Group is to provide emergency assistance in times of natural and social disasters such as earthquakes, famine, and catastrophic political upheaval. Although it is funded by the WHO, its relief efforts are provided by its member nations and by individual donations.
World Federation of Public Health Associations
Although the World Federation of Public Health Associations is more of an administrative and political organization, its publications offer a wider view of how public health issues are being addressed at the national and international levels. As is the case with the World Health Organization, mentioned above, this organization promotes communication and coordinated action to prevent local conditions from deteriorating into a crisis situation.
Diane Feston is a public health program administrator and guest author at BestPublicHealthSchools.org, a site with resources and guides to the best online bachelor’s in public health degree programs.