States Flunk Public Health Crisis Evaluation

Erik Bernstein crisis management, crisis preparation, Crisis Prevention, Crisis Response, disaster management, Erik Bernstein, health crisis, Jonathan Bernstein Leave a Comment

Study reveals many states not prepared for public health crisis management

If the health scares and natural disasters of recent years have shown us anything, it’s that state governments are expected, and needed, to lend a hand in getting us through crises with minimal damage.

In order to evaluate the public health preparedness of each state in the U.S., the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation partnered with Trust for America’s Health to set up a list of ten key indicators of public health preparedness and compile the results in the report, “Ready or Not?”

What did they discover? Here are some high(low?)lights::

    • 29 states cut public health funding from fiscal years (FY) 2010-11 to 2011-12, with 23 of these states cutting funds for a second year in a row and 14 for three consecutive years. In addition, federal funds for state and local preparedness have decreased 38 percent from FY 2005-2012 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funds, adjusted for inflation).
    • States are reporting that gains in public health preparedness achieved in the past decade since September 11, 2001 are eroding, and since 2008, budget cuts have resulted in more than 45,700 job losses at state and local health departments.
    • Only two states have met the national goal of vaccinating 90 percent of young children, ages 19-36 months, against whooping cough (pertussis). This year Washington state has seen one of the most significant whooping cough outbreaks in recent history.   
    • 35 states and Washington, D.C. do not currently have complete climate change adaptation plans, which include planning for health threats posed by extreme weather events.  
    • 20 states do not mandate all licensed child care facilities to have a multi-hazard written evacuation plan.  
  • 13 state public health laboratories report they do not have sufficient capacity to work five, 12-hour days for six to eight weeks in response to an infectious disease outbreak, such as novel influenza A H1N1.

Other items the states were scored on included response readiness – how long it took the state to notify and assemble public health staff – and participation in programs like nurse licensure compacts and the Emergency Management Accreditation Program.

It appears that perhaps some state leaders didn’t get the memo that proper preparation is a prerequisite if you want to get the most out of your crisis management efforts, because 20+ states scored five out of ten or less on the evaluation.

What does this mean to you? Well, the important lesson is that both organizations should be prepared to handle as much health-related crisis management of their own as possible, because there may not be help on the way.

Obviously things like laboratory research are out of reach, but you can certainly take steps such as creating your own evacuation plans, or setting a piece of your own healthcare budget aside so that staff can get vaccinations for themselves and family, preventing a loss of productivity.

Consider the potential risks and look for solutions that don’t rely on government help. It’s fantastic to have it as backup, but the better prepared we are as organizations and individuals, the less likely a health crisis is to turn into a disaster.

The BCM Blogging Team

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