This article discusses the barriers to modernization of the public health system posed by existing regulatory structures and suggests priority areas for utilizing data during pandemic response.
Public Health Authority
The authority to act to protect and promote the public's health has emerged over the course of our Nation’s history, and has enabled many of modern public health’s greatest achievements. Today, public health agencies use their authority to promote health, prevent the spread of infectious disease, protect against environmental hazards, advance equity and assure local public health infrastructure and health services. During declared emergencies, state and federal authorities have broader powers to act to assist governments, suspend or modify legal requirements, pass and enforce law and expend funds for the health, safety and welfare of society. Recently, some states have moved to limit public health powers. Such efforts pose a mounting challenge for public health’s response to COVID-19 and future threats.
Vaccination is one of public health’s most successful tools for preventing and controlling the spread of infectious diseases and, increasingly, cancers and chronic diseases too. Immunization is an effective and cost-efficient strategy that prevents sickness and death in all age groups and saves billions of dollars each year. The COVID-19 epidemic and recent outbreaks of measles and other preventable infectious diseases underscore the importance of vaccines and sustaining high vaccination rates. Work is needed to ensure that people of all ages receive a complete series of the vaccines they need.