Nebraska ranks in the middle of the pack in a new national report that ranks the states on their levels of preparation for health emergencies, from natural disasters to bioterrorist attacks.
Laura Segal, spokeswoman for the group Trust for America’s Health, says they compared ten key factors of preparedness for all 50 states.
Segal says, “We looked at how quickly states could respond to a new incident, running an emergency operations center, assembling a team quickly, developing after-action reports to evaluate what may’ve gone right or what went wrong and testing for new, emerging threats like food-borne illness or other kinds of diseases.”
One area where many states fell short on the rankings was under the heading of increased or maintained levels of funding for public health service. Segal compares it to trying to operate a fire department without having trucks. Like Nebraska, she says virtually all states are struggling financially.
“Unfortunately, the economy is creating an emergency for emergency preparedness,” Segal says. “The budget cuts from the federal, state and local level means that progress we’ve made over the last decade, since Nine Eleven, is really starting to be scaled back.”
Nebraska was among 18 states that had eight of the ten indicators. While Iowa and Montana ranked the worst on the study, each with only five of the ten indicators, only three states had a perfect ten for preparedness — Arkansas, North Dakota and Washington.
“There’s a lot of things states can do,” Segal says. “One is improving collaboration between the public health departments and the health care system, increasing capacity for testing, and identifying new diseases and working within the state and region to react as a team as quickly as possible.”
The two categories where Nebraska failed are: “Community Resilience — Children and Preparedness — Does the state require all licensed child care facilities to have a multi-hazard written evacuation and relocation plan?”
Also: “Foodborne disease detection and reporting — Is the state able to rapidly identify disease causing E.coli and submit results by PulseNet within four working days 90% of the time?”
To see the full report, visit www.healthyamericans.org and click on the “Ready or Not 2010 Report” link.