Monday, January 7, 2013

Emergency preparedness losing ground due to US budget cuts

Alicia Gallegos in American Medical News: States have made significant strides in public health preparedness in the last 10 years, but budget cuts and work-force reductions are eroding that success and casting a cloud over future progress, says a December 2012 report.

The majority of states scored slightly lower on emergency health preparedness than in 2010, according to the report, “Ready or Not? Protecting the Public’s Health from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism.” The annual analysis, released Dec. 19, 2012, was conducted by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“In the past decade, there have been a series of significant health emergencies, including extreme weather events, a flu pandemic and foodborne outbreaks,” said Jeffrey Levi, executive director of TFAH, an advocacy organization focused on disease prevention. “But, for some reason, as a country we haven’t learned that we need to bolster and maintain a consistent level of health emergency preparedness. Investments made after Sept. 11, the anthrax attacks and Hurricane Katrina led to dramatic improvements, but now budget cuts and complacency are the biggest threats we face.”

States were ranked based on 10 indicators, including response readiness, infectious disease control, emergency management and health system preparedness. A new indicator in 2012 was extreme weather event preparedness, which measured whether states have climate change adaptation plans in place.

Given climate-change research and the recent prevalence of extreme weather events such as droughts and hurricanes, “we thought it was important to highlight what” climate change preparedness requires, Levi said. “I don’t think there’s a health department that hasn’t thought about these issues, but our role is to make sure that health departments are integrating into the larger state efforts around climate change” issues."...

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