LONDON—The new public health organization, the Health Protection Agency (HPA), today set itself a wide range of priorities for the next 5 years, saying the rapid spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) highlighted the pressing need for better ways to tackle emerging threats.

"The global threats to health have moved on, and so must we—it's time to step up our health defenses," said HPA Chairman William Stewart, launching the agency's corporate plan on Tuesday (August 5). "The SARS experience demonstrated that a new bug can spread around the world in days."

The agency outlined 12 strategic goals, ranging from boosting preparedness for emergencies through to better understanding of the effects of chronic exposure to environmental chemicals and radiation.

Among the first priorities will be establishing a more systematic approach to "horizon scanning" for anticipating problems, the agency's Chief Executive Pat Troop said at a press conference.

"What we need...

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