Overview of the U.S. Public Health System in the Context of Emergency Preparedness [Updated March 17, 2005] [open pdf - 271KB]
"This report describes the U.S. public health infrastructure: the structure, organization, and legal basis of domestic public health activities. In contrast with healthcare, public health practice is aimed at decreasing the burden of illness and injury in populations, rather than individuals. Public health agencies use epidemiologic investigation, laboratory testing, information technology, public and provider education, and other tools to support their mission, activities that in turn rely on an adequate and well-trained public health workforce. Federal leadership for public health is based in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and in particular at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most public health authority, such as mandatory disease reporting, licensing of healthcare providers and facilities, and quarantine authority, is actually based with states as an exercise of their police powers. Local and municipal health agencies vary in size, governance, and authority, but they are the front line in responding to public health threats. In 2001, terrorist attacks on the nation brought the weaknesses of our public health system into sharp focus. Prior to the 2001 terrorist attacks, Congress passed the Public Health Threats and Emergencies Act (P.L. 106-505), to address the decaying public health infrastructure and to prepare for bioterrorism and other public health emergencies."
CRS Report for Congress, RL31719
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org