Are We Ready?

May 1, 2006
by Katherine Hobson
U.S. News & World Report

A large-scale disaster like a pandemic flu or terrorist attack could overwhelm the nation's healthcare providers... ... In fact, the Trust for America's Health, a nonprofit group focused on public health and disease prevention, recently gave the federal government a D+ for emergency preparedness. Almost 60 percent of states failed to meet more than half of the group's requirements, which include things like having the lab capacity to quickly test thousands of samples for anthrax or smallpox. Meanwhile, hospitals nationwide say U.S. funding woes and lack of guidance make it hard to enact contingency plans. Over the past few years, Johns Hopkins Medicine has spent $10 million on emergency preparedness, said summit panelist CEO Edward Miller. "And it comes out of other programs we are not funding," says Miller. "This is not a sustainable business plan." The best preparedness approach, most experts say, is to plan for "all hazards," concentrating on the common elements shared by most disasters, rather than planning separately for an individual event. It doesn't matter whether it's a hurricane, terrorist attack, or pandemic.

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