Background Paper

No. 65

Strong as the Weakest Link: Medical Response to a Catastrophic Event
August 8, 2008


Eileen Salinsky, Consultant


Natural disasters and acts of terrorism have placed a spotlight on the ability of health care providers to surge in response to catastrophic conditions. This paper reviews the status of efforts to develop the capacity and capabilities of the health care system to respond to disasters and other mass casualty events. Strategies for adapting routine medical practices and protocols to the demands posed by extraordinary circumstances and scarce resources are summarized. Existing federal roles, responsibilities, and assets relative to the contributions of state and local government and the private sector are described, including specific programmatic activities such as the Strategic National Stockpile, the National Disaster Medical System, and the Hospital Preparedness Program. Opportunities for federal policymakers seeking to strengthen and expedite preparations for medical disaster response are highlighted.

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