The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should appoint an independent panel to develop evidence-based practice guidelines for public health emergency preparedness and response and identify evidence gaps for future research, according to a report released today by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

“Preparing for and responding to public health emergencies requires scientific evidence to save lives, prevent social and economic disruption, and uphold national security,” said Ned Calonge, chair of the committee that wrote the report. “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the time for the nation to take stock of how we can improve the quality of research that is conducted before, during, and after public health emergencies.”

While not prepared in response to the pandemic, the report reviews the evidence for four public health emergency preparedness and response practices: engaging and training community-based partners to improve outcomes for at-risk populations; activating a public health emergency operations center; communicating public health alerts and guidance; and implementing a quarantine to reduce or stop the spread of a contagious disease. The authors recommend engaging and training community-based partners serving at-risk populations; including electronic messaging channels as part of a multipronged approach to communicating public health alerts and guidance to technical audiences; and implementing a quarantine during an outbreak only after considering the disease’s characteristics and the expected benefits, harms and feasibility. The authors found insufficient evidence to determine whether the common and standard practice of activating a public health emergency operations center improves response.

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