Report Says Many States Aren't Ready For a Health Emergency

By Laura Spadanuta, Assistant Editor

Trust for America's Health, a nonprofit and nonpartisan health organization, has released its latest "Ready or Not? Protecting the Public's Health from Disease, Disasters, and Bioterrorism," report, which finds that the nation's health preparedness is uneven and incomplete. It also notes that cuts in federal funding for state and local preparedness threaten safety.

Among the key findings are:

- Thirteen states do not have adequate plans to distribute vaccines, antidotes, and medical supplies from the National Strategic Stockpile.

- Twelve states do not have a disease surveillance system that is compatible with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's system.

- Seven states have not purchased their share of the federal stockpile of antivirals to use during a pandemic flu.

- Seven states and Washington D.C. lack sufficient capabilities to test for biological threats.

The report was compiled from evaluations conducted on publicly available data on ten key health preparedness indicators from all 50 U.S. states and D.C.  Thirty-five states and D.C. scored eight or higher on the scale of ten indicators. The lowest-scoring states were Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, with only six out of ten.

An evaluation of federal preparedness progress, included in the report, declared that the passage of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA) of 2006 and the new Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response were productive steps.

Despite some success, 60 percent of Americans do not think their communities would be prepared to respond to a natural disaster, according to a poll commissioned by TFAH. 

The National Association of County and City Health Officials responded to TFAH's report in a release yesterday:

Preparedness is a task that will never be completed.  It is not surprising that TFAH found differences in preparedness among the states based on the measures used in the report. Local health departments legitimately direct their efforts where they are most needed at any given time.  However, as federal funding erodes, it becomes more difficult to meet ever-changing federal expectations and still keep our communities safe and prepared for inevitable public health emergencies.



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