Preparing for Public Health Threats: Ready or Not?

According to a new report by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), more than half of US states are unprepared for public health emergencies. Ready or Not? Protecting the Public’s Health From Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism studies how well states around the country are prepared to respond to various health threats. TFAH uses a security indicator guide that addresses 10 key health threats and conducts a state-by-state analysis to determine each state’s preparedness.

The 10 indicators are as follows:

(1) Public Health Funding Commitment
(2) National Health Security Preparedness Index (NHSPI)
(3) Public Health Accreditation
(4) Antibiotic Stewardship Program for Hospitals
(5) Flu Vaccination Rate
(6) Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC)
(7) United States Climate Alliance
(8) Public Health Laboratories
(9) Public Health Laboratories
(10) Paid Sick Leave

Alabama, Missouri, and Nevada are among the twenty-five states that scored 5 or lower on the scale; Alaska ranks at the bottom with a score of 2. Massachusetts and Rhode Island rank on the other end of the scale, both with a score of 9.

One of the most critical findings by Ready or Not?  is the inequity of resources that exists between states:

According to the release of the most recent NHSPI scores, despite improvements in nearly two-thirds of states, significant inequities in preparedness exist across the nation: a gap of 32 percent separates the highest state (Vermont, 7.8) and the lowest state (Alaska, 5.9). Generally, states in the Deep South and Mountain West regions—many of which face elevated risks of disasters and contain disproportionate numbers of low-income residents—lag behind Northeast and Pacific Coast states.

The report argues that the country does not invest enough in core capabilities of the public health system or resources for health security management, including in areas of adequate medical care. In addition to expert analysis, Ready or Not? offers recommendations on steps that states can take to improve their scores across the board.

The full report is available for registered users on the HSDL or on TFAH’s website for guests.