The Role of Patient Tracking in Public Health Practice

In the second installment of Dr. Craig Vanderwagen’s groundbreaking five-part series “Implementing the National Health Security Strategy,” the founding Assistant for Preparedness and Response, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services focuses on the challenges in tracking patients before, during, and after mass-casualty incidents and events.

Patient tracking remains immensely important to resiliency, because the health and well-being of the population – both in the immediate aftermath and in the recovery phase of an event – contribute significantly to the ability of a community to rebound from a challenge and return to a more normal state of affairs. The importance of this element in preparedness is reflected in the strategic objectives of the National Health Security Strategy not only in the goals related to situational awareness and scalable health-delivery systems but also in the overarching vision of maintaining a healthy population.

In this essay, Dr. Vanderwagen explores the immediate medical needs of those persons directly affected by an event along with several other facets of patient tracking – including but not limited to: (a) the health status and requirements of the evacuated population; (b) the size and immediate needs of the population being housed in shelters; (c) the health status of those who remain in the area directly affected; and (d) the tracking of medical countermeasures from the point of origin to treatment.

The white paper can easily be downloaded at

W. Craig Vanderwagen

Rear Admiral W. Craig Vanderwagen, M.D., was appointed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness and promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral, Upper Half, U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) in July 2006. He now serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and Chief Preparedness Officer. In this position, he is the HHS Secretary's principal advisor on matters related to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies. The mission of his office is to lead the nation in preventing, responding to, and reducing the adverse health effects of public health emergencies and disasters. Admiral Vanderwagen has significant public health emergency and disaster-response experience. Most recently, he was the deputy secretary's special assistant for preparedness and led the teams that implemented the changes at HHS recommended in the White House Report Katrina Lessons Learned. He also: was the senior federal health official in the response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Louisiana; led the public health team deployed on the hospital ship USNS Mercy to Indonesia to assist in the 2005 tsunami recovery; served as chief of public health for the Coalition Provisional Authority and Ministry of Health in Iraq; and directed some of the health care operations initiated to help Kosovar refugees during the 1999 Balkans conflict.



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