Healthcare and Public Health Critical Infrastructure Sector

In order to optimize the security and resilience of the countries critical infrastructure, it is essential for a concerted approach that integrates all relevant partners and stakeholders. The healthcare and public health sector are crucial partners towards this end. The continuity of healthcare operations in times of emergency is quintessential. They role is disaster response and response makes them an asset and elevates their importance to national security beyond mere stakeholder status. The necessity for a sector-specific plan that optimizes the relationship between the players in the healthcare and public health industry and liaising with the department of homeland security has become vital. In the contemporary society, threats to the countries critical infrastructure have evolved diversifying into digital and biological platforms. The Healthcare and Public Health (HPH) Sector-Specific Plan (SSP) is created to champion cross-sector effort sector and collaboration towards enhancing security and resilience of the industries critical infrastructure covering all hazards. The guidance of the SSP is meant to customize the guidance to be relevant to the applicable industry players. This entails ensuring the strategic guidance is compatible with the risk landscape and unique operating landscape of the healthcare and public health sector. The above prevents the sector layers from expending energy on extraneous factors. The National Infrastructure Protection Plan 2013 has been instrumental towards that end. The sector has formulated an integrated approach to managing the risks to industry’s critical infrastructure and corresponding workforce.

The approach involves identification and preparation for the potential threats as well as hazards. Preparedness assumes that the all hazard risks are always imminent. In order to consider all dimensions of attack, the cross-sector councils are allowed to leverage simulation technology to visualize the full range of consequences in the instance of a biological attack (Almklov & Antonsen, 2014). The SSP has proved innovative in its approach even utilizing potential risk scenarios inspired by films. The above is important given the last terrorist attack was attributed to a lapse in the imagination. Another strategy employed towards anticipating the above eventuality is mitigating weaknesses identified in the HPH critical infrastructure, its networks, and systems. Once the vulnerabilities are highlighted, ad hoc strategic plans to fix them are recommended lest they expand. The critical infrastructure within the purview of the healthcare and public health extends beyond the internal assets (Wulff, Donato & Lurie, 2015). Even out of a sector, dependencies such as are with within their logistic and supply chain that can be exploited and other interdependencies are areas of interest. In order to optimize continuity, the approach posits adapting to the dynamic industry externalities to increase resilience faster disruptions owing to emergencies regardless their cause. The approach strives to reduce the potential impact of these eventualities and timely restoration of the critical infrastructure to optimal functioning. To ensure the efficiency of the approach optimization of public-private partnership and collaborative risk management becomes necessary. The goals and objectives of the stakeholders of the industry should be aligned from the onset and a free flow of information towards that end should be facilitated.

The HPH Sector objectives from its vision, mission, and goals are validated in policy. It follows that policy impediments in the national arena and within the sector should be addressed promptly (Homeland Security, 2016). Apart from the policy, the guiding principles of the sector are formulated after consideration of multiple factors ranging from the current progress in risk mitigation, the available resources, identified capability gaps, emerging risks and the prevalent risk management priorities. These objectives are utilized to coordinate the collective operations within the sector. They reflect considerations of not only the HPH sub-sector but also the regional, local public and private partners. Efforts to mobilize public-private partnership support needs of HPH critical infrastructure are underway. The local, territorial, tribal, and federal government partners are not only involved in the conversation but their input is solicited during decision-making to increase their stakes in the outcome of the approach. The Sector Partnership Mission towards increasing the health sector’s resilience aims to sustain the vital functions of the United States’ healthcare and public health delivery system. Similarly, it endeavors to espouse effective emergency preparedness and subsequent response to nationwide major hazards. Public and private sector partners are instrumental in evaluating risks; lobbying fro policy changes, coordinate plans, and provision of guidance towards preventing, protecting, mitigating, responding to, and recovering from all hazards threatening the HPH critical infrastructure.

 The key sector-specific goals strive to manage the identified risks the vulnerabilities and potential consequences of disruptions. The risk management is the second step of the approach by translating the analyses of the sector into implementable recommendations for local and state public health departments as well as private sector facilities (Katina, Pinto, Bradley, & Hester, 2014). The recommendations should be actionable and customized to the issues facing the respective institutions. The risk analyses should be translated into response and recovery efforts. To facilitate information sharing new mechanism as well as existing ones should be harness ensure the free flow of information. The flow implies it is bidirectional; each partner and stakeholders should give and receive information. Similarly, the government and the private sector should emulate best practices from each other. The sector goals should strive to develop and implement partnership engagement strategies to strengthen coordination. This will increase facilitate outreach efforts by reducing relationship constraints (May & Koski, 2013). The operators and owners of the critical infrastructure should be acquainted with the behavioral patterns of their counterparts. The strengthening the relationships expedites the speed of information sharing and subsequent response time. The partnerships should be convenient by concentrating on the regional, local networks towards a national preparedness (Moteff, 2010). The purview of the sector specific plan involves also the cyber security attacks. The above would cripple technologically dependent networks like transport and even directly affect the health data framework. During response and recovery, the sector should be able to learn from past attacks and enact effective corrective measures (Perakslis, 2014). While seeking innovating strategies of increasing response speeds after disasters, it is equally essential to leverage past mishaps. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) working in tandem with other industry players be required to evaluate their sectors milestones towards implementing recommendations.

 An aggressive awareness campaign among the industry stakeholders to reiterate the essence of their input is required. The entire critical infrastructure community regardless their size their counsel should be considered (Solanas et al., 2014). The new approach as recognized that the vulnerabilities arise from the assets that are underestimated as insignificant, the specific sector focus is hinged on attention to detail. Beyond the traditional partner’s federal departments international partners and private sector owners even the perspective of an actual health practitioner has been given premium. The critical infrastructure workforce is strategic in identifying industry and system dysfunctionalities than an outsider (Therrien, Normandin & Denis, 2017). The nonprofit sector has been instrumental in the post consequence period adding in the expediting resilience. The NGO has a close and sustainable relationship with the healthcare and public health industry as often their relief services compliment the sector’s goals. The specific sector plan acts as a store for information and a centralized location where all the relevant stakeholders can access the data they require optimizing resilience and straightening their collaborative efforts (Torchia, Calabrò & Morner, 2015). The interdependence of sectors in contemporary society implies that a catastrophe affecting the health sector will cripple the other accompanying infrastructure like transport. For instance, an airborne disease outbreak will inhibit mobility in public transport platforms. It follows that the public becomes a crucial stakeholder thus the need to facilitate access to non-critical information of resilience programs through the specific sector plan.

The HPH Sector’s critical infrastructure and its corresponding factors operate in a dynamic and increasingly complex setting. The shifting goal posts due to technological innovations and political changes may lead to confusion in managing the professional workforce, the systems, and assets, systems, and professional workforce operates in a highly complex and dynamic risk environment. For instance, the political changes have repealed the patient protection act causes the entire industry to adjust to new realities. Similarly, the changes in the climate have increased the frequency of naturally occurring threats though one can argue they there are artificially induced. The size of the sector and the interconnections of its networks further aggravate the situation. The open access to a majority of health facilities, physical facilities, operations, and system interconnections make the sector innately vulnerable. Towards strengthening preventative measure in the risk-prone environment, collaboration between government and the HHP sector becomes crucial. The sector has to capitalize on the vast resources at its disposal ranging from digital capabilities, consultancy resources, and other diverse authorities. The success of a program is attached to the proponents’ capabilities to harness wide spectrum of resources. Information sharing is not an option but the premise of the program. As the treats as constantly evolving, the sector should be equally flexible accommodating updates, and reprioritization of risk managements strategies towards optimizing security. The sector leadership should periodically evaluate the progress in implementing the recommendations in order to identify their shortcomings.


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