New report examines nation’s public health readiness to combat infectious diseases.
Just in time for the holidays and the winter flu season, we receive alarming news. A new report finds that many of our states are ill-prepared to respond to threats of infectious diseases.
The report, Outbreaks: Protecting Americans from Infectious Diseases, was released Tuesday (Dec. 18) from the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on the nation’s infectious disease threats and key findings.
Only 16 states and the District of Columbia scored 60 percent or higher on a set of 10 indicators of public health capability. Fifteen states – South Carolina was in this group — received a 50 percent score, and the rest received worse scores.
Dr. Jeffrey Levi, TFAH executive director, said the 10 indicators cover such things as vaccination rates, public health budgets, screening for chronic diseases, and public health laboratory capacity.
“Fighting these (infectious) diseases takes constant vigilance,” Dr. Levi said. “There are gaps in almost every state’s ability to respond — sometimes it’s in vaccination rates, sometimes it’s in lab capacity, sometimes it’s in policies and investments in resources.”
The goal of the report, he said, is to “shine a light on the vulnerabilities that we have.”
The report makes note of a troubling key finding: The investment in public health continues to fall on both the state and federal level. During 2012, 48 percent of all local health departments reduced spending in at least one program area, and some 44,000 public health jobs have been eliminated since 2008.
And even though technology has made great strides in clinical care, the same cannot be said about the connections between public health and medicine needed to identify and respond quickly to an emerging threat.
Yet, the report does find that “we do continue to have one of the best healthcare and public health systems in the world. We can build on these strengths to make good progress. We have a surge of new young people wanting to come into the field. People are motivated and eager to get engaged in the fight against infectious diseases.”
To read more about the report, visit http://www.healthyamericans.org/assets/files/TFAH2013OutbreaksRpt07.pdf.