Ten years ago today I was lucky to have evacuated from New Orleans to Atlanta and sat waiting to see what would happen with the storm of the century. Having evacuated countless times before, I could only hope this would be another false alarm. But waking up to see my city under siege and the devastation wrought by the storm across the Gulf Coast, everyone knew this was only the beginning. The road to recovery would be a long one.
Hurricane Katrina taught us, taught America, a lot of lessons. One of those lessons was about preparedness and the need for coordinated help when disaster strikes.
Getting needed assistance and care, including medicines, to people in affected areas is paramount following a disaster. But without coordination between response organizations, biopharmaceutical companies, nonprofit relief groups and government, unneeded barriers arise. During Katrina a lack of coordination led to medical deliveries being held up at check points and resulted in hundreds of phone calls between government officials and contacts within individual companies asking the same questions and tackling the same obstacles. It was clear help could have reached those in need faster with greater pre-disaster coordination.
To address the lessons learned during Katrina, PhRMA spearheaded the creation of Rx Response (now known as Healthcare Ready) to bring together stakeholders and the biopharmaceutical supply chain to ensure medical help can reach those in need when disaster strikes. Today, Healthcare Ready continues to work to bridge the public-private gap in disaster preparedness and response by building partnerships, improving communication and recognizing the importance of the entire health care system in the wake of disaster. Even 10 years later as an industry and a country we continue to learn lessons from the past and build for the future.
It was a privilege for me to return home to New Orleans for several years after the storm to participate in the recovery first hand and work for the State of Louisiana through later storms where improved coordination was evident. Today, I’m proud to be working in an industry committed to researching and developing new treatments and cures that help patients live longer, healthier lives; an industry committed to helping in times of need and willing to spearhead efforts to deliver that help in a more efficient and coordinated way.
Allyson Funk Ally is a former senior director of public affairs at PhRMA focused on advocacy issues for the biopharmaceutical industry. Her expertise includes Medicare, Medicaid, 340B, health reform and more. Prior to PhRMA, her experience included leading health communications for a large membership organization, supporting public affairs clients and working for the governor of Louisiana.