State Readiness Varies For Health Disasters

  • December 19, 2007
  • By Daniel C. Vock

If a health disaster were to strike, Illinois doctors and nurses could hunt down emergency vaccines, track the spread of disease using the Internet and deploy thousands of medical workers to cope with the crisis. But their neighbors in Wisconsin and Iowa wouldn't be quite as prepared.
States are getting better at preparing for health emergencies, but their efforts are uneven, according to a nationwide scorecard released Tuesday (Dec. 18, 2007).
“The improvements in state preparedness are encouraging, but the job of preparing the United States for major health emergencies is not nearly done,” said Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America's Health, a non-profit, non-partisan group working to make disease prevention a national priority. 
Seven states were rated as best-prepared, based on their performance in 10 areas: Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia. At the bottom were Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi, Nevada, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Even the lower rung of states achieved six of the group's goals, which include having lab capacity to analyze biological and chemical samples, extending legal protections for medical volunteers in emergencies and boosting funding for public health services.
“We would argue that this does reflect some serious progress and argue further that this progress is potentially at risk if we don't sustain the same funding commitment” at the state and federal levels, Levi said.

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