TFAH’s new report discovers that after two years and nearly $2 billion of federal bioterrorism preparedness funding, states are only modestly better prepared to respond to health emergencies than they were prior to September 11, 2001.
The TFAH report, “Ready or Not? Protecting the Public’s Health in the Age of Bioterrorism,” examines 10 key indicators to assess areas of improvement and areas of ongoing vulnerability in our nation’s effort to prepare against bioterrorism and other large-scale health emergencies.
Nearly 75 percent of states earned positive marks for only half (five) or fewer of the 10 possible indicators. California, Florida, Maryland and Tennessee scored the highest, earning seven of the 10 possible indicators. Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico and Wisconsin scored the lowest, meeting just two of the indicators.
The report found that progress has been made in most states to expand the health emergency communications network, upgrade public health laboratories and develop initial bioterrorism response plans.
Major concerns addressed by the report include: cuts to public health programs in nearly two-thirds of states; an impending shortage of trained professionals in the public health workforce; disagreements between state and local health agencies over resource allocation; and tie-ups of much of the federal bioterrorism funding due to bureaucratic obstacles. The report also found that only Florida and Illinois are prepared to distribute and administer emergency vaccinations or antidotes from the national stockpile. It also showed that states’ readiness for other health emergencies, such as major infectious disease outbreaks like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or a pandemic flu, is seriously inadequate.
In the report, Trust for America’s Health offers specific recommendations for improving our preparedness at a state and national level.