State preparedness undermined by funding

Dec. 30, 2012 at 8:19 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- There was significant progress in improving public health preparedness during the past 10 years, but gains were undermined by funding cuts, researchers say.

The report, issued by the Trust for America's Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, also found there continued to be persistent gaps in the country's ability to respond to health emergencies, ranging from bioterrorist threats to serious disease outbreaks to extreme weather events.

In the report, Kansas and Montana scored lowest -- 3-in-10 -- while Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Vermont and Wisconsin scored highest at 8-in-10.

The report scored Alabama, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota and Virginia at 7-in-10, the second-highest ranking.

Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and Wyoming were scored 6-in-10.

Alaska, Arizona, Washington, D.C., Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia scored 5-in-10.

Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Nevada and New Jersey were at 4-in-10.

"In the past decade, there have been a series of significant health emergencies, including extreme weather events, a flu pandemic and foodborne outbreaks," Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health, said in a statement.

"But for some reason, as a country, we haven't learned that we need to bolster and maintain a consistent level of health emergency preparedness. Investments made after Sept. 11, 2001, the anthrax attacks and Hurricane Katrina led to dramatic improvements, but now budget cuts and complacency are the biggest threats we face."

Twenty-nine states cut public health funding from fiscal years 2010-2011 to 2011-2012, with 23 of these states cutting funds for a second year in a row and 14 for three consecutive years.

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