Kaiser Permanente Contributes $2 Million to Support Public Health Response to Katrina

The CDC Foundation today announced a $2 million gift from Kaiser Permanente to support the national public health response to Hurricane Katrina. The contribution was made to the CDC Foundation’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Fund, which is accepting contributions to enable the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its state and local partners to obtain equipment, supplies and services that are not readily available or are difficult for government organizations to purchase quickly.

As the threat of disease outbreaks, tainted water supplies, chemical exposures and other health risks loom in the aftermath of Katrina, the public health community is mounting a full-scale emergency response. CDC director, Dr. Julie Gerberding, has activated CDC’s state-of-the-art Marcus Emergency Operations Center to support the Department of Health and Human Services as a coordinating hub for the response.

CDC and other public health leaders are identifying both the immediate and long-term needs of state and local public health agencies working on the frontlines in the affected areas. Communications equipment such as satellite phones, laptop computers and GPS devices are among some of the supplies that response teams need immediately. Laboratory equipment and reagents, supplies to support immunization programs and health education resource materials are additional urgent needs in some areas. As the public health consequences of the disaster become clearer, officials say they will be focusing on preventing and controlling infectious disease outbreaks (food-borne, water-borne and insect-borne), checking water quality, restoring critical laboratory functions and rebuilding public health and laboratory infrastructures.

“This hurricane and its aftermath are creating challenges that we are only beginning to understand,” says Dr. Gerberding. “The extensive flooding, damage to healthcare and public health facilities, lack of transportation, disrupted communication and widespread power outages will have an impact on this area for many years to come. Public health agencies across the region will be challenged to restore basic services and prevent further threats to health in the hurricane’s aftermath.”

To help protect the public’s health during this crisis, Dr. Gerberding asked the CDC Foundation to activate its Emergency Preparedness and Response Fund. The Fund, established after 9/11/01, provides flexible, immediate resources for CDC to use in a public health emergency. CDC Foundation president and CEO, Charles Stokes, authorized the use of the Fund and committed to raising additional dollars to support the hurricane response efforts.

“While the President has moved swiftly to provide support to the regions affected by Hurricane Katrina, a crisis like this will always lead to unforeseen needs that the government cannot address rapidly,” says Stokes.

“As CDC’s non-profit partner, the CDC Foundation is ideally positioned to help CDC and its public health partners secure crucial resources quickly and get them into the hands of those who need them. Our unique independent status allows us to help CDC do more than it can do as a government agency, faster than it can do it with the government restrictions within which it must work,” he says.

“We are pleased that Kaiser Permanente has recognized the importance of a quick and comprehensive response to the broader public health threats wrought by Hurricane Katrina and are grateful for their generous lead gift to support these efforts.” Stokes adds.

Because of the scope of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, Dr. Gerberding requested that the Fund be made available to CDC’s state and local partners assisting with the emergency response. CDC’s Emergency Operations Center will coordinate and prioritize these activities.

“This Fund will help us fill urgent gaps and speed our ability to take actions to protect health and restore the public health system in affected areas,” she says.

Raymond J. Baxter, Kaiser Permanente senior vice president of Community Benefit says, “We are proud to be the initial donor to such a vital effort addressing the public health needs of the Gulf Coast region. Public health departments are communities’ critical infrastructure in a natural disaster like this, and in the ongoing protection of communities’ health over time. This donation is an affirmation of Kaiser Permanente’s longstanding partnership with the CDC to protect the nation’s health.”

To support the public health response to Katrina by making a contribution to the CDC Foundation’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Fund, call (888) 880-4CDC. Donations can also be made online at www.cdcfoundation.org.