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​​Legal Requirements for Addressing the Disaster Public Health and Medical Needs of At-Risk Individuals 

Public health and medical professionals need to be aware of a number of different legal requirements when working to address​ the needs of at-risk individuals in the communities they serve.

The Public Health Service Act

The Public Health Service Act, as amended, requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop a National Health Security Strategy that establishes preparedness goals which, among other things, includes “taking into account the public health and medical needs of at-risk individuals" described as children, pregnant women, older adults, individuals with disabilities, or others who may have access or functional needs in the event of a public health emergency, as determined by the Secretary. Examples of statutorily required activities that HHS must follow​​ to address the public health and medical needs of at-risk individuals include:

  • Monitoring emerging issues
  • Overseeing implementation of preparedness goals
  • Assisting federal agencies in preparedness activities
  • Providing guidance on preparedness and response strategies and capabilities
  • Ensuring the strategic national stockpile addresses the needs of at-risk populations
  • Developing curriculum for public health and medical response training
  • Disseminating and updating best practices
  • Ensuring communication addresses the needs of at-risk populations
  • Ensuring coordination to detect emerging public health threats and adverse health outcomes that may affect at-risk individuals

Other Federal Legislation

There are many federal laws and executive orders that describe at-risk populations disproportionately impacted by disasters and ​public health emergencies, including populations that have historically faced discrimination.