Many states not prepared for public health disaster: report

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Many U.S. states are underprepared for a public health emergency, like a disease outbreak or bioterrorism, according to a new report.

Many U.S. states are underprepared for a public health emergency, such as a disease outbreak or bioterrorism, according to a new report.

The report, compiled by the Trust for America's Health, found that 26 states and the District of Columbia scored a six or worse on a scale of 1-10 when measuring key indicators of preparedness for a public health emergency. Only one state, Massachusetts, scored a 10 on the report’s rankings, while two states, Alaska and Idaho, ranked the lowest with a three out of 10.

“Health emergencies can quickly disrupt, derail and divert resources from other ongoing priorities and efforts from across the government,” Rich Hamburg, interim president and CEO of TFAH, said in an announcement. “Many areas of progress that were made after 9/11 and the anthrax attacks to improve health security have been undercut. We aren’t adequately maintaining a strong and steady defense, leaving us unnecessarily vulnerable when new threats arise.”

The majority of states were ranked either a six or seven out of 10, according to the report, with 18 states and the District of Columbia receiving a six and 15 ranked at seven. The data was collected from “publically available sources” or was provided by public officials.

A poor response to a public health emergency can leave people vulnerable and agencies floundering in situations like the Ebola outbreak or the spread of Zika, according to the report.

The report found several key trends, both positive and negative, in the past 15 years of public health preparedness: significant funding cuts and gaps in research and care access raise concern, but improved emergency operations, care coordination and upgrades in foodborne illness detection should be celebrated.

The trust offered a number of recommendations that can address gaps in emergency preparedness, including:

  • Establish stable funding channels for emergency preparedness
  • Improve federal response, even to the White House level
  • Emphasize antibiotic stewardship to tackle the superbug and drug resistance threat
  • Improve vaccination rates in both children and adults

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