Health Careers Journal

Category — Government

Is Your State Prepared for a Disaster?


The devastating impact Hurricane Sandy had on the Northeast raised national concern about our country’s infrastructure. According to USA Today, a non-profit organization called the Trust For America’s Health released its annual study evaluating all 50 states and Washington D.C. for their preparedness for public disasters such as massive storms, viral epidemics, civilian acts of violence and bioterrorism. The study’s findings were not good.

How the States Stack Up

North Carolina, Maryland, Vermont, Wisconsin and Mississippi met eight of the ten standards on which the study based its evaluation. Thirty-five other states and the District of Columbia only met six requirements, and Kansas and Montana tied for last place by meeting three.

The study used the following criteria to measure disaster preparedness:

  • Funding for public health
  • Capability to handle bioterrorist attacks
  • Capability to handle catastrophic weather
  • Adequate staffing to accommodate the containment of an infectious disease epidemic
  • Official recognition by the Emergency Management Accreditation Program
  • Comprehensive plans for evacuating children from schools in the event of emergencies like fires or armed intruders
  • Availability of influenza vaccination to the poor
  • Reciprocity of nursing licenses with other states
  • Vaccination of children against whooping cough
  • Ability to quickly inform healthcare workers of public health emergencies

Half of all states do not recognize nursing licenses issued in other states, which poses a massive problem when outside help is needed in the form of first responders. Only 15 states have concrete plans for dealing with natural disasters while 37 are prepared for disease outbreaks. Three fifths of all states have plans to deal with gun violence on school grounds, and more than a fifth of states require medicaid patients to pay for the flu shot. Only two states, Hawaii and Nebraska, met the target whooping cough vaccination rate of 90 percent. Unfortunately, Hawaii scored lowest on the criteria of promptness; the Trust study claims that communicating an emergency message to every healthcare center on the islands currently takes more than three hours. The vast majority of states were able to do so in less than an hour.

The Trust aggregated data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as other sources. In their analysis, the authors cite budget cuts in the public health sector as the primary culprit of poor emergency preparedness. Federal assistance for state preparedness has plummeted a whopping 38 perfect since 2005. Additionally, about half of the states have decreased public health spending since 2010, and the states that have kept their budgets stagnant are unable to keep up with inflation. As a result, 20 percent of healthcare positions have been eliminated in recent years.

The most recent publication by the Trust is entitled “A Healthier America 2013: Strategies to Move from Sick Care to Health Care in Four Years.” The report outlines suggestions to improve the quality of the American healthcare system and ensure its economic sustainability.

February 21, 2013   No Comments