US preparedness for public health emergencies edges upward

The U.S. is better prepared for public health emergencies than it was three years ago, according to an annual health preparedness assessment from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The 2016 National Health Security Preparedness Index scored the U.S. at 6.7 out of 10, with the foundation noting that's a 1.8 percent improvement over the previous year and a 3.6 percent improvement since the first assessment in 2012. However, there's a "preparedness gap" of 36 percent between the best-prepared states and the worst. States scoring lower included clusters in the Deep South and the mountain West, according to an announcement from the foundation.

Many of the highest-scoring states--18 scored significantly higher in public health emergency preparedness than the nation as a whole--were clustered along the Eastern seaboard, the upper Midwest and the Southwest. Ohio showed the most improvement, the report showed.

Measures showing the most improvement across the nation included incident and information, health security surveillance and countermeasure management. Areas where preparedness declined included healthcare delivery, and environmental and occupational health.

Among other findings: Laboratory testing capabilities for the Zika virus were not universally available.

For more:
- see the report
- read the announcement