10th Annual Report Shows Gaps in Emergency Preparedness

(HealthDay News) – There seem to be considerable gaps in the ability of states to respond to health emergencies, according to the 10th annual report, Ready or Not? Protecting the Public from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism, published Dec. 19 by the Trust for America’s Health.

Jeffrey Levi, PhD, from the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services in Washington, DC, and colleagues reviewed state and federal public health emergency preparedness and proposed recommendations for improving preparedness.

The authors note that 35 states and Washington, DC, scored 6/10 or lower on the state preparedness score, based on 10 key indicators of preparedness. Five states scored 8 and two states scored only 3. Other key findings included reports of cuts in funding for public health in 29 states from fiscal year 2010–2011 to 2011–2012. In 2011, only three states were reportedly able to notify and assemble public health staff to ensure rapid response to an incident. Climate change adaptation plans, including planning for health threats posed by extreme weather, were lacking for 35 states and Washington, D.C. In 20 states, licensed child care facilities were not mandated to have a multi-hazard written evacuation and relocation plan. In response to an infectious disease outbreak, 13 state public health laboratories did not have sufficient capacity to work five 12-hour days for six to eight weeks.

“As a country, we haven’t learned that we need to bolster and maintain a consistent level of health emergency preparedness,” Levi said in a statement. “Investments made after September 11th, the anthrax attacks, and Hurricane Katrina led to dramatic improvements, but now budget cuts and complacency are the biggest threats we face.”

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