Measles. Hepatitis. Polio. Ebola. The mere mention of these highly contagious diseases create an immediate sense of fear. Not only are we scared for our own health, but also for our local health care system to combat or contain the potentially fatal illnesses in a timely and effective manner. This is where health care emergency preparedness, and the growing need for unified health care coalitions (HCCs), comes into play.

HCCs bring groups of health care and response organizations together to plan for, and respond to, emergencies and disasters in a defined geographic location. Members typically include hospitals, EMS providers, emergency management organizations and public health agencies, to name a few. Today, there are more than 31,000 health care coalition members across the country—all of whom work together to protect the health and lives of Americans when and if disaster strikes.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), HCCs collaborate to ensure each member has what it needs to respond to emergencies and planned events, including medical equipment and supplies, real-time information, communication systems, and educated and trained health care personnel.

Encouraging the development and sustainment of health care coalitions nationwide is ASPR’s Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP). It provides leadership and funding through grants and cooperative agreements to states, territories, and eligible municipalities to improve the capacity of the health care system in response to medical surge events. In fact, HPP is the only source of federal funding that supports regional health care system preparedness.

HPP’s 2017–2022 Health Care Preparedness and Response Capabilities and 2017–2022 Hospital Preparedness Program Performance Measures Implementation Guidance provide HCCs with resources and guidelines for strengthening their ability to prepare for and respond to emergencies, crises, and natural disasters.

Given the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 1,044 individual cases of measles through June 13, 2019 (the greatest number in the U.S. since 1992), such strength may be needed sooner rather than later.