The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 or Bioterrorism Act (“Act”) was enacted to improve the ability of the U.S. to prevent, prepare for, and respond to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies[i].
The Act directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services (“Secretary”) to develop and implement a coordinated strategy, building upon the core public health capabilities for carrying out health-related activities to prepare for and respond effectively to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies, including the preparation of a plan[ii]. The Secretary should periodically review and, as appropriate, revise the plan.
In carrying out the strategy, the Secretary should collaborate with the states toward the goal of ensuring that the activities of the Secretary regarding bioterrorism and other public health emergencies are coordinated with activities of the states[iii].
Within one year after the date of the enactment of the Act, the Secretary should submit to the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives, and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions of the Senate, a report concerning[iv]:
- the recommendations and findings of the National Advisory Committee on Children and Terrorism;
- the recommendations and findings of the EPIC Advisory Committee;
- the characteristics that may render a rural community uniquely vulnerable to a biological attack, including distance, lack of emergency transport, hospital or laboratory capacity, lack of integration of federal or state public health networks, workforce deficits, or other relevant characteristics;
- the characteristics that may render areas or populations designated as medically underserved populations uniquely vulnerable to a biological attack, including significant numbers of low-income or uninsured individuals, lack of affordable and accessible health care services, insufficient public and primary health care resources, lack of integration of federal or state public health networks, workforce deficits, or other relevant characteristics;
- the recommendations of the Secretary with respect to additional legislative authority that the Secretary determines is necessary to effectively strengthen rural communities, or medically underserved populations; and the need for and benefits of a National Disaster Response Medical Volunteer Service that would be a private-sector, community-based rapid response corps of medical volunteers.
Pursuant to the Act, the Secretary should provide for the operation of a system to be known as the National Disaster Medical System[v]. The Secretary should also designate the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response as the head of the National Disaster Medical System, subject to the authority of the Secretary.
The Secretary, in consultation with the Federal Communications Commission, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and other appropriate federal agencies should conduct a study to determine whether local public health entities have the ability to maintain communications in the event of a bioterrorist attack or other public health emergency[vi].
The Secretary, in collaboration with members of the working group, professional organizations and societies should develop materials and provide for the dissemination of these materials to increase recognition and identification of potential bioweapons and other agents that may create a public health emergency[vii]. It should be for the care of victims of such emergencies, recognizing the special needs of children and other vulnerable populations.
The Secretary may make awards of grants and cooperative agreements to appropriate public and nonprofit private health or educational entities, including health profession schools and programs[viii]. The grants for training and education of health professionals should be for the purpose of providing low-interest loans, partial scholarships, partial fellowships, revolving loan funds, or other cost-sharing forms of assistance for the education and training of individuals.
The Secretary should also link existing state verification systems to maintain a single national interoperable network of systems, each system being maintained by a state or group of states, for the purpose of verifying the credentials and licenses of health care professionals who volunteer to provide health services during a public health emergency[ix].
The Secretary should also establish a joint interdepartmental working group to address the public health and medical consequences of a bioterrorist attack on the civilian population[x].
Further, the Secretary should promptly carry out a program to periodically evaluate new and emerging technologies that, in the determination of the Secretary, are designed to improve or enhance the ability of public health or safety officials to conduct public health surveillance activities relating to a bioterrorist attack or other public health emergency[xi].
[i] 107 P.L. 188.
[ii] 42 USCS § 300hh (1).
[iii] 42 USCS § 300hh (2).
[iv] 42 USCS § 247d-6.
[v] 42 USCS § 300hh-11.
[vi] 42 USCS § 247d-6.
[viii] 42 USCS § 247d-7a.
[ix] 42 USCS § 247d-7b.
[x] 42 USCS § 247d-6.
[xi] 42 USCS § 300hh-13.