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Public Health

The health and medical services are one of the fifteen emergency functions of the federal government. Other emergency functions include transportation, communications, fire fighting, and emergency management. The secretary of Health and Human Services leads the Federal medical response and public health incidents and accidents, contained in the National Response Framework (NRF). This responds to the functional needs, among other functional needs for those in need of Medicare like support or assistance in communicating, independence, transportation, and supervision. The HHS Secretary assumes the operational control over the medical response assets and the federal emergency health, where necessary, in a situation of an emergency, with the exception of the armed forces. The armed forces remain under the control of the defense secretary. The HHS Secretary works, with the assistant Secretary’s office to provide for preparedness, recovery actions, and response matters. The actions should not change the pre-existing authorities of any other department or an agency supporting ESF.

It is the HHS, which coordinates all the response actions of ESF, as long as they are in tandem with the internal procedures and policies of the HHS. The ESF support agencies have the responsibility of supporting and maintaining administrative control over other organs, when they receive coordinating instructions from the HHS. The Emergency Management Group (EMG) operates from the jurisdiction of the HHS secretary, where they coordinate ESF control, and ensure a constant communication to the National Operations Centre (NOC). All the regional organizations and the headquarters, which participates in the response operations, communicate the medical and public health requirements to an appropriate ESF, representing the National Response Coordination Centre (NRCC), the Joint Field Office (JFO) or the Regional Response Coordination Centre (NRCC). The HHS is a lead agency for ESF and determines how appropriate a request is to release a medical or public health information, and it consults the medical or the Federal public health’s experts, where necessary.


Emergency support functions (ESFs) refers to grouping of some private sector and government capacities to an organizational structure to offer resources, support, program implementation and essential services needed to save lives ensure protection of environment, lives, infrastructure and restoration of vital services. In addition, the functions support communities and victims to return into normal statures after cases of domestic incidents. Fifteen ESFs include communication, transportation, firefighting, resource support, urban rescue search, and public health and medical services among others. In this paper, the function under focus is that of public health and medical services. This is the eighth ESF coordinated by the secretary of health and human service (HHS) secretary via the preparedness and response assistant secretary. Activation of ESF is via the public health service act or the Stafford act. This function offers a strategy of ensuring a well-coordinated federal assistance that supplement local resources, and state in response to emergencies such as medical care and public health needs, and veterinary needs. Furthermore, the function offers supplementary support to the entire government in trying to identify and meet medical and public health needs in main disasters. Some of the support categories include assessment of medical and public health needs, medical care personnel, prevention of movement, out and inpatient services and hospital care among others (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2012). The federal medical and public health assistance consist of personnel, medical, and technical assistance. HHS takes the responsibility of coordinating the overall medical and health response to the national incidents through coordination of events in various departments.


The role of the Public Health and Medical Services emergency function is to provide supplementary support to tribal, local governments and the state in the main functional areas. These areas include assessment of medical needs or public health, medical care personnel, health surveillance, patient evacuation, supply of medical equipment, patient care, blood products, security/safety drugs and food safety. Others are agriculture safety, behavioral healthcare, vector control, public health information, solid waste disposal, mass fatality management, and veterinary medical support.

Literature Review

The Health and Human Services (HHS) Emergency Management Group (EMG) ensures an immediate increase in staffing, when they receive notification on the potential or actual medical or public health emergency. After getting activation from National Response Coordination Centre (NRCC), the HHS consults the relevant ESF supporting organizations to ensure that they get assistance in any of the functional areas in the following discussion. The first functional area is the assessment of the Medical Services or Public Health. It is the responsibility of the HHS while working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to deploy and mobilize the ESF personnel. This assists to offer support to the regional and national teams to evaluate the medical and public health needs, which include the requirements of the at-risk population groups like the language assistance services for the few English-proficient persons, and accommodation and services to those with disabilities. This also includes assessing the healthcare facility/system infrastructure.

The HHS coordinates with the support departments and agencies to provide a health surveillance system, which does field investigations, monitor disease and injury patterns, and potential disease outbreaks and patterns, blood supply levels, then offer technical consultations and technical assistance on disease prevention and precautions. A part from assets deployment from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), the ESF can ask DOD to provide durable medical equipments, and other supplies like the diagnostic, medical, pharmaceuticals, radiation-detecting devices, and biological products, which support stocking of Medicare facilities in an emergency or disaster area (Bullock, Haddow, & Coppola, 2011). The National Veterinary Stockpile, working under the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) provide assets when the need arises.

The patient evacuation is a paramount function. ESF carries the responsibility of transporting seriously ill patients from the casualty collection points to designated reception facilities. In patient care, ESF may ask the DOD to provide personnel to support treatment, inpatient hospital care, pharmacy services and dental care to the seriously ill, who may need evacuation, regardless of their location. On the biologics, safety of drugs and medical devices, ESF may ask HHS to ensure efficacy and safety by regulating veterinary and human drugs, biologics, medical services, and other products. On blood and organs, the ESF may engage the HHS components to monitor and ensure availability, safety, and logical requirements of blood, tissues, and organs (Bullock, 2005).

The ESF may also engage HHS to regulate foods like the imported meat, egg products, and poultry. A similar scenario applies to agriculture security and safety where HHS works to ensure the safety, health and security of animals that produce food, therapeutics, and animal feeds. In the behavioral healthcare, ESF may ask HHS components to assess mental health and substance abuse, together with the behavioral, psychological first aid and cognitive constraints, which may require supervision or assistance.

The public health and medical information provides injury and disease prevention information necessary for the public. Vector control involves assessment by a relevant organization to unearth the vector-borne diseases by conducting field investigations, collection of samples, and laboratory analysis. In addition, the vector control function ensures the provision of technical assistance and then consults on the protective actions concerning all vector-borne diseases. This provides the necessary technical assistance and medical treatment of vector-borne diseases.

The ESF may involve the HHS components to assist in looking into aspects of portable water, solid waste, and wastewater management. The components assess portable water, solid waste disposal, wastewater management, and other issues of environmental health, with the aim of preparing or serving food, drugs, or medical facilities to correspond to the needs of the public. They carry out the field investigations, collections, analysis and provide consultation or technical assistance. The state, tribe or local officials can request ESF to coordinate with partner organizations in assisting the jurisdictional medico-legal authority and the law enforcement to track and document any deaths or human remains.

On analysis of responsibilities, various agencies do activities, which the state and HHS assigns. The HHS is the primary agency that plays a key role of leading the federal effort to ensuring that medical and public health assistance get into the affected areas. They also ensure staffing coordination to support operation response. HHS also requests the right organization of ESF to ensure activation and deploying of medical, public health, and equipments appropriately. They also use the HHS personnel to address medical and public health related issues. They ensure support to the tribal, state, and local officials in monitoring contamination and pharmaceutical administration for internal patients. HHS also plays a vital role of ensuring a registry of exposed potential individuals and monitoring health and population in the long term. They also monitor confidentially blood and related products supply in the whole year using systems that ensure blood availability and safety baseline data. HHS also liaises with inter-organization based task force in ensuring coordination of public announcements associated with a donation of blood. They also monitor blood in circulation to ensure that there is no shortage and coordinate patients’ evacuation and other medical departments in the state. They also ensure food security by liaising with various support agents in the state. Some of the agents include the department of agriculture, commerce, defense, energy, homeland security, labor, justice, state, transportation, and environment among others (U.S. Department of Health and Human, Services, 2011).

The agriculture department offers the right personnel, and equipments necessary for the deployment of the federal medical and public health terms. This department is also a member of the advisory team for food, environment, and health thus support public health matters related with radiology. It offers nutrition assistance to prevent health problems associated with nutrition. It further ensures appropriate disposal of dead animal carcasses to prevent further transmission of diseases and ensure well being and safety within households. The department of commerce ensures appropriate dispersion and prediction of release of hazardous materials that authorities can use to take precaution to facilitate evacuation and sheltering of people. The department of defense, on the other hand, ensures overall security within the federal state. As a result, it ensures that it provides the necessary logical support to the medical and public health operators. Furthermore, it facilitates availability of medical personnel to assist casualties and coordinate reception, tracking, and overall management of patents. In addition, the department of defense coordinates with the HHS to offer medical surveillance diagnoses in the laboratories and confirmation the tests. The department of energy ensures coordination of federal assets to facilitate monitoring and decontaminate radiological emergency activities while working with HHS. The department of justice ensures the HHS get necessary information needed to deliver public health services. It also ensures that there is security during movement of needed blood from one place to another. On the other hand, the department of labor ensures work place safety of health operators. Finally, the transportation department assists in ensuring appropriate logistical movements of health supplies, blood, and equipment in time.


In every research, one can collect information from either primary or secondary sources. Primary sources are first-hand data from the field while secondary sources are the information kept in records. Such records include books, journals, electronic database, magazines, and articles, among others. For primary sources, a researcher collects information personally from the field. In this paper, the information will come from the secondary sources such as journals, books, and electronic databases.

Results and Data Analysis

The department of health in the federal state collaborated with the country leaders and conducted a research among individuals from various ages from the various states to access the public health and medical services function in the state. The intention of the research was also to identify and plan for improvement in the various sections perceived not to deliver services as demanded. The participants in the research identified the various health related needs within the community by initiating a discussion concerning various health aspects affecting various individuals in the state. A sample of 100 people of age between 20 to 65 years participated in an interview concerning their views about delivery of health services in the US public and private hospitals (Maniscalco & Christen, 2010). This aimed at analyzing the various functions of the public health and medical care in US. In addition, the research aimed at identifying the areas that needed improvement in relation with the functions. Out of 100 people who were subject to sampling, 65 of them stated that the public health and medical service function played a crucial role in ensuring that all the citizens’ health was not at risk at any time. On the other hand, 30 of the remaining individuals stated that it was essential to have some issues improved in various departments that work in conjunction with the health department. Such individuals stated that such changes were necessary as this could ease issues such as prevention of transmission of diseases, thus ensuring a healthy living. The remaining five individuals stated that they were not sure of the response to give regarding the health department.


From the research, it was clear that medical emergencies, public health, and the local transportation assets were not sufficient to meet the demands of a majority. This based on the results from the sample population. The population stated that the federal transportation play a vital role in execution of the public health and medical service function because it ensures coordination or obtaining, gathering, and delivery of supplies and medical equipments. In addition, the population stated that it is necessary to have public health and medical service function working together with other departments or agents to ensure adequate delivery of services according to demand. Communication ensures that federal public health issues are coordinated appropriately. As a result, of the complexity of public health and related medical service may call for review and advice on certain strategies for managing and responding to various situations in the most appropriate way.


Public health and medical services function are one of the fifteen federal government’s emergency functions. It is worth noting that public health is an issue of broad concern to the entire public. As a result, it is essential to ensure that the public are safe at all costs. This will help eliminate unnecessary expenditure by the public on health matters. The public health and medical service function cannot work on its own because it needs support from the various federal departments. This ensures a smooth flow of operation and responsibility among the various departments. Finally, the federal medical and public health assistance consist of personnel, medical, and technical assistance. HHS takes the role of monitoring the medical and health response to the national incidents through coordination of events in various departments.

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