Some in the general public may wonder how an animal health emergency would be of concern to them. It is our job as members of the veterinary profession to demonstrate that an animal health emergency would hit the checkbooks of every person living in the United States. An animal health emergency would drive up the prices of food and cause stock market prices to decline.
It is also imperative that we get across the message that the crisis does not revolve around the quality and safety of our food supply, which would remain safe for consumption, but around our economy and way of living. To date, Americans enjoy the highest quality of food for the lowest prices in the world. In fact, only 10 percent of our disposable income is spent on food. In the event of the introduction of a animal disease, every person would be financially impacted.
Behind the scenes, the National Animal Health Emergency Management System Steering Committee has been hard at work assessing our country's readiness to respond to an animal health emergency. The NAHEMS SC is composed of representatives from the Animal Agriculture Coalition, the Department of Agriculture, the AVMA, the United States Animal Health Association, and most recently, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Emergency Management Association.
The NAHEMS SC goal is to have in operation in the United States a world-class National Animal Health Emergency Management System by 2005. To accomplish that goal, the NAHEMS SC developed seven action guidelines and is implementing them. Those action guidelines are: (1) strengthening partnerships and networks, (2) reinforcing federal, state, and industry coordination, (3) supporting animal disease research and diagnostics, (4) improving monitoring and surveillance/international and domestic coordination objectives, (5) expanding training, education, and public awareness, (6) building a national preparedness and response infrastructure, and (7) developing emergency preparedness and response contingency plans.
Now, the 2001 Annual NAHEMS Report is available. This report is the first of a series of annual reports on the progress made in improving the NAHEMS. The 2001 report contains the overall accomplishments toward the seven main action guidelines, the individual accomplishments of the NAHEMS subcommittees, and the results of the 2001 self-assessment of state animal health emergency management systems.
In addition, the report includes the strategic and operational plan through 2007, the 2001 partner accomplishments, the seven standards for state animal health emergency management systems, and guidelines for use by industry.
This report is currently in print, but quantities are limited. Therefore, the report is now available to print from the Internet on the NAHEMS Web site at www.usaha.org/NAHEMS/.
It is the responsibility of the veterinary profession to help NAHEMS get the message out that preparedness is the key to mitigating disaster.