WASHINGTON , Dec. 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today released the sixth annual Ready or Not? Protecting the Public's Health from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism report, which finds that progress made to better protect the country from disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and bioterrorism is now at risk, due to budget cuts and the economic crisis. In addition, the report concludes that major gaps remain in many critical areas of preparedness, including surge capacity, rapid disease detection, and food safety.
The report contains state-by-state health preparedness scores based on 10 key indicators to assess health emergency preparedness capabilities. More than half of states and D.C. achieved a score of seven or less out of 10 key indicators. Louisiana , New Hampshire , North Carolina , Virginia , and Wisconsin scored the highest with 10 out of 10. Arizona , Connecticut , Florida , Maryland , Montana , and Nebraska tied for the lowest score with five out of 10.
Over the past six years, the Ready or Not? report has documented steady progress toward improved public health preparedness. This year however, TFAH found that cuts in federal funding for state and local preparedness since 2005, coupled with the cuts states are making to their budgets in response to the economic crisis, put that progress at risk.
"The economic crisis could result in a serious rollback of the progress we've made since September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina to better prepare the nation for emergencies," said Jeff Levi , PhD, Executive Director of TFAH. "The 25 percent cut in federal support to protect Americans from diseases, disasters, and bioterrorism is already hurting state response capabilities. The cuts to state budgets in the next few years could lead to a disaster for the nation's disaster preparedness."
Some serious 2008 health emergencies include a Salmonella outbreak in jalapeno and Serrano peppers that sickened 1,442 people in 43 states, the largest beef recall in history in February, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, severe flooding in the Midwest, major wildfires in California in June and November, and a ricin scare in Las Vegas .
Among the key findings:
Budget Cuts: Federal funding for state and local preparedness has been cut more than 25 percent from fiscal year (FY) 2005, and states are no longer receiving any supplemental funding for pandemic flu preparedness, despite increased responsibilities.
Rapid Disease Detection: Since September 11, 2001 , the country has made significant progress in improving disease detection capabilities, but major gaps still remain.
Food Safety: America's food safety system has not been fundamentally modernized in more than 100 years.
Surge Capacity: Many states do not have mechanisms in place to support and protect the community assistance that is often required during a major emergency.
Vaccine and Medication Supplies and Distribution: Ensuring the public can quickly and safely receive medications during a major health emergency is one of the most serious challenges facing public health officials.
"States are being asked to do more with less, jeopardizing our safety, security, and health," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey , M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "We all have a stake in strengthening America's public health system, because it is our first line of defense against health emergencies."
The report also offers a series of recommendations for improving preparedness, including:
For the state-by-state scoring, states received one point for achieving an indicator or zero points if they did not achieve the indicator. Zero is the lowest possible overall score, 10 is the highest. The data for the indicators are from publicly available sources or were provided from public officials. More information on each indicator is available in the full report on TFAH's Web site at www.healthyamericans.org and RWJF's Web site at www.rwjf.org. The report was supported by a grant from RWJF.