New Committee will Advise HHS on Children’s Health in Disasters

Source: Department of Health and Human Services

Fifteen experts will serve on a new federal advisory committee focusing on health needs of children in disasters, from natural disasters to bioterrorism incidents, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced on August 1.

The National Advisory Committee on Children and Disasters will provide advice and consultation to the Secretary on comprehensive planning and policies to meet the unique health needs of children before, during, and after a disaster or other public health emergency.

"Ensuring the safety and well-being of our nation's children in the wake of disasters is vital to building resilience in every community,” said Secretary Burwell. “We look forward to working with the committee toward this common goal."

The committee was established under the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013. HHS solicited nominations beginning in January 2014 from scientific, public health, and medical fields. Members were selected from 82 nominations.

Members from outside the federal government are:

  • Michael Anderson, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Cleveland
  • Allison Blake, Ph.D., commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, Trenton
  • Robin Gurwitch, Ph.D., psychologist and instructor at Duke University Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Durham, NC
  • Linda MacIntyre, Ph.D., R.N., chief nurse for the American Red Cross, Washington, D.C.
  • Scott Needle, M.D., primary care pediatrician for the Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida, Naples, FL, and disaster coordinator for the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Jeffrey Upperman, M.D., associate professor of surgery at the University of Southern California and attending pediatric surgeon and associate chief of pediatric surgery at the Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles
  • Sarah Park, M.D., Hawaii state epidemiologist and chief of the Hawaii Disease Outbreak Control Division, Honolulu

Members from the federal government are:

  • Alex Amparo, deputy assistant administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Recovery Directorate
  • David Esquith, director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students
  • Lisa Kaplowitz, M.D., deputy assistant secretary for policy with the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
  • Diane Murphy, M.D., pediatrician and director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Pediatric Therapeutics
  • Georgina Peacock, M.D., medical officer and developmental-behavioral pediatrician with the HHS Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Sally Phillips, Ph.D., principal deputy assistant secretary (acting) in the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Health Affairs
  • Mary Riley, R.N., director of the Office of Human Services Emergency Preparedness Response in the HHS Administration for Children and Families
  • Anne Zajicek, M.D., pediatrician and chief of the Obstetric and Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics Branch in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

The first public meeting was held in Washington on August 8.

The committee will advise on efforts that build on prior work by HHS and partner agencies to ensure U.S. communities impacted by disasters can meet the health needs of children. For example, in 2010, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) established the Children’s HHS Interagency Leadership on Disasters (CHILD) working group to identify and comprehensively integrate related disaster planning activities across all components of HHS.

Progress made by the CHILD working group included increased interagency coordination and recommendations to improve lifesaving care for children in disasters, ways to mitigate the behavioral and psychological needs of children in disasters, and medications and vaccines appropriate for use to protect children in an emergency. The working group also recommended ways the nation could support child care and child welfare agencies in emergencies.

HHS is the principal federal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. ASPR is an HHS leader in preparing the nation to respond to and recover from adverse health effects of emergencies, supporting communities’ ability to withstand adversity, strengthening health and response systems, and enhancing national health security.

To learn more about preparing for and responding to the health impacts of disasters, visit More information about the committee is available at