The Value of Partnerships During Disasters

The Value of Partnerships During Disasters

February 9, 2017

February 9, 2017 - The past 18 months have stayed more or less at a dull roar for preparedness and response. From public health emergencies including the water crisis in Flint, MI and on-going Zika response efforts, to natural disasters such as the flooding in Baton Rouge, LA and Hurricane Matthew, and even special security events such as the presidential inauguration, the emergency management and public health communities have been on our toes.

Much has been written about the significant challenges these events have posed. The variety and even the confluence of these events – and the cascading effects they have on our ability to create sustainable public health preparedness and response capabilities – has also served to underscore the value of partnerships. 

Healthcare delivery is complex enough to begin with, and these complexities are exacerbated during a disaster. Luckily, healthcare and public health practitioners are extremely dedicated to helping their communities and this desire is amplified during a disaster where the sole goal is to save lives.  This drive to protect communities and patients is not just at the local level, but also at the state and federal levels where policy is created that directly impacts how local health workers are able to do their jobs.

The key way to create success at those levels is through partnerships as many voices ring louder and garner more attention to issues.  In the course of our response efforts during the past year, Healthcare Ready has been a strong member of several new partnerships and expanded existing ones. A few examples include:

  • Zika Coalition: Healthcare Ready joined March of Dimes’ coalition of over 100 diverse organizations united around advocating for emergency funding for the Zika virus outbreak. I found this coalition to be so impressive and compelling not just for its size, but the diversity of expertise and resources it brought to bear on the shared cause. Policy wonks, pediatricians, industry leaders, and many more all came together. It was hard to think of a reason such a diverse group of people would have otherwise been in a room together, but the collective effort proved successful.
  • Americares: In the course of our work connecting public sector needs with private sector capacities, we helped coordinate a $40,000 grant for Americares to help repair a rural health clinic that was destroyed during the Baton Rouge floods. We also filled over 100 donation requests for destroyed health clinics.
  • FEMA’s NBEOC: As part of FEMA’s National Business Emergency Operations Center (NBEOC), we joined hundreds of private sector organizations in sharing status and event updates with one another and state responders during the Baton Rouge floods and Hurricane Matthew. Even with just a few years of emergency management experience, I can tell this coordination body will continue to be invaluable. The ‘one-stop shopping’ repository of resources (such as maps like Rx Open, travel waivers, lists of shelters, and more) the NBEOC houses on its open dashboard is a critical resource not just for other businesses, but also response managers and relief workers.
  • State Public-Private Partnership Programs: During Hurricane Matthew, we were able to facilitate a donation of over 100 oxygen tanks for shelters in North Carolina through the state’s highly active public–private partnership program. We also helped identify and coordinate local pharmacies able to fill prescription needs at local shelters running on generator power.

These experiences, along with many others from the past year, continue to emphasize the real value and impact partnerships can have on community well-being, particularly during disasters – and the high pace of crises demonstrate the need for partnerships now more than ever.  They can be especially helpful to public health which is constantly doing more with fewer resources. The team here at Healthcare Ready is always available to lend our expertise, to try to connect you to resources, and to hear your innovations and complaints.

Sarah Baker

Sarah Baker is a Program Associate at Healthcare Ready. In this capacity, she provides a wide range of policy research, writing, and analytical support to the organization's preparedness initiatives. Prior to joining Healthcare Ready, Sarah served as a consultant to the Department of Homeland Security and a variety of private sector organizations, during which time she supported the design, conduct, and evaluation of scores of preparedness exercises. Sarah recently received her Masters in Public Policy from Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy and holds a B.A. degree from the University of Notre Dame.