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October 5, 2021: HHS Selects Emory University to Demonstrate Better Approach to Disaster Medical Care

To demonstrate a unique approach to improving medical surge and clinical specialty care needed to save lives during a national emergency, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) selected Emory University to lead the latest Regional Disaster Health Response System site.

The Emory-based demonstration site becomes the fourth from ASPR designed to show the effectiveness and viability of a regional healthcare response approach to disasters. The Regional Disaster Health Response System builds on local health care coalitions and trauma centers, creating a tiered system of disaster care, similar to the model used for trauma and burn care in the United States.

The first three sites in the system, established in 2018, have demonstrated how to integrate local medical response capabilities with emergency medical services, burn centers, pe​diatric hospitals, labs, and outpatient services to meet the overwhelming health care needs created by disasters. The regional sites collaborate, facilitate information exchanges within the region, and develop resources to coordinate health care assets, including staff and supplies in the region.

“In past public health emergencies or natural disasters, we have witnessed thousands of people requiring immediate medical specialty care, and that surge can surpass local capacity and capability,” said HHS Assistant Secretary Dawn O’Connell. “These regional demonstration sites have shown a return on investment, improving patient outcomes and reducing strain on healthcare staffs at individual facilities.”

All four sites focus on integrating clinical and health care systems’ operational expertise into existing preparedness and response structures at the local, state, and regional level, expanding capabilities and capacity for improving disaster readiness across the health care system, increasing medical surge capacity, and providing specialty care – including trauma, burn, and infectious disease, among others – during large-scale disasters or public health emergencies.

The four regional recipients will build or continue to expand systems that build a partnership for disaster health response to support clinical specialty care; align plans, policies, and procedures for clinical excellence in disasters; increase statewide and regional medical surge capacity; improve statewide and regional situational awareness; and develop metrics and test the regional system’s capabilities.

ASPR is providing $1.5 million to each of the three other Regional Disaster Health Response System demonstration sites to build on accomplishments to date. These demonstration sites are based at Massachusetts General Hospital, Nebraska Medical Center, and Denver Health and Hospital Authority. Since 2018, ASPR has invested a total of $22.6 million in the Regional Disaster Health Response System.

An objective review panel of experts from professional associations, academia, and federal agencies reviewed the applications for the fourth site, and selected Emory University based on extensive criteria published in the notice of funding opportunity released in August 2021.