BETHESDA, Md. The Obama administration sent a message to the nation Thursday that it is time to start planning and preparing for the fall flu season and the ongoing H1N1 flu outbreak.
White House Homeland Security adviser John Brennan, secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined with delegations from 54 states, tribes and territories Thursday at the H1N1 Influenza Preparedness Summit at the National Institutes of Health here to kick-off the government's nation-wide fall flu preparedness efforts.
“The President and the administration are actively engaged in mitigating the effects of the H1N1 flu virus and developing a national response framework and action plan that builds on the efforts and lessons learned from this spring’s initial onset to prepare for the possibility of a more serious fall outbreak of the virus,” stated Brennan in his address to summit participants.
“Over the course of coming weeks and months, we will move aggressively to prepare the nation for the possibility of a more severe outbreak of the H1N1 virus,” added Sebelius. “We ask the American people to become actively engaged with their own preparation and prevention. It's a responsibility we all share.”
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley moderated a Governors panel with participation via videolink from Govs. Jim Douglas of Vermont, Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, Mark Parkinson of Kansas, John Baldacci of Maine and Jodi Rell of Connecticut.
“The experience in the spring taught us that while earlier pandemic flu planning efforts were effective,” O’Malley said. “We share the commitment of the Obama Administration to constantly monitor, evaluate and improve these processes.”
As part of the preparedness plan, HHS will make available preparedness grants worth a total of $350 million. These grants were funded by Congress in the latest supplemental appropriations bill and they will give state and local public health offices and health care systems resources to step up their preparedness efforts.
In addition, the federal government will centralize communications about H1N1 and seasonal flu on the federal government's new Web site www.flu.gov. This one-stop comprehensive site brings together flu-related information from across HHS and other federal agencies. The expanded site builds on the pandemic planning information long presented on www.pandemicflu.gov, and incorporates information about the novel H1N1 flu as well as the seasonal flu.
Finally, HHS is launching a new PSA campaign contest to encourage more Americans to get involved in the nation's flu preparedness efforts by making a 15-second or 30-second PSA. Officials at the summit stressed the idea of “shared responsibility” when it comes to combating the flu and the goal of the new HHS PSA campaign contest is to tap into the nation’s creativity to help educate Americans about how to plan for and prevent the spread of H1NI influenza. HHS will evaluate submissions and will present the best PSAs back to the public so everyone can vote on their favorite submission. The winning PSA will receive $2,500 in cash and will appear on national television.