Early 2014 saw the introduction of a variety of new public health threats that previously had been relegated to foreign venues. Now, viruses like Chikungunya and Ebola have made their way to our borders, serving as an excellent reminder that we never know what may be coming next. It would be understandable for public health and emergency managers to feel a sense of resignation, as if the actions taken to protect their communities would always be an exercise in “putting out fires,” a feeling that wears on the most altruistic and dedicated of professionals and volunteers.
Rather than being viewed as a series of independent foes, events from newly introduced viruses, mutated flu strains, bioterrorism and even climate change can be seen through a different lens. Re-categorizing these events from “uphill battles” to “emerging threats” can help stave off the sense that things are constantly changing and unpredictable. We all know that the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, stated, “The only thing that is constant is change.”
Globalization has accelerated the speed of emerging threats and the information age has brought rapid attention to the effects caused by them. The face of the threat will continue to evolve but our response to it and our dedication to our communities must remain solid. And we must continue to build relationships with those who depend on us, and commit to improving communications, response capabilities and preparedness, not simply reinvent the wheel each time.
2014 has been an excellent reminder to refocus our efforts on the main challenge we all face, protecting our communities. To continue to evolve as a field of preparedness, we must embrace a more expansive planning process that encourages learning, promotes growth and develops the incorporation of lessons learned. We must face failure in exercise outcomes to truly identify our preparedness vulnerabilities. Each new threat should be an opportunity to strengthen our existing capabilities, not seen as a failure of the old plan.
The Ebola epidemic that killed so many in West Africa was a sobering experience for everyone in public health. It brought into clear focus the importance of planning for the unexpected and preparing for the worst. Volunteers risked their lives by going overseas to fight the illness, and too many paid the ultimate price. Our hearts and gratitude go out to their families, friends and co-workers.
We at Bio-Defense Network are honored to be in the company of so many generous, dedicated and talented public health professionals and volunteers who tirelessly work to make their communities more secure and to save the lives of their neighbors. We recently surpassed the one million mark of people whose futures are more assured today because of the work we’ve done with communities from St. Louis to Arizona, New York State to California and Texas, and we believe 2015 will be even more impactful.
We expect by the end of next year we will have surpassed the two million mark; and to meet the challenges of new communities seeking our support, we have expanded our team and redoubled our efforts to help our clients succeed in their important work. We welcome the challenges and promise our determined efforts next year and beyond.
We know that our successes over the past four years are the product of the trust that our client-partners have demonstrated in us, and we commit to continuing to earn that trust.
Best Wishes for Renewed Energy and Dedication in 2015!