Report: Economic Crisis Hurting U.S. Preparedness for Health Emergencies

December 16, 2008
PR Newswire

Washington - Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) released the sixth annual "Ready or Not? Protecting the Public's Health from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism" report, which finds that progress made to better protect the country from disease outbreaks, natural disasters and bioterrorism is now at risk due to budget cuts and the economic crisis. In addition, the report concludes that major gaps remain in many critical areas of preparedness, including surge capacity, rapid disease detection and food safety.

The report contains state-by-state health preparedness scores based on 10 key indicators to assess health emergency preparedness capabilities. More than half of states and D.C. achieved a score of seven or less out of 10 on key indicators. Louisiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin scored the highest with 10 out of 10. Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Montana and Nebraska tied for the lowest score with five out of 10.

Over the past six years, the "Ready or Not?" report has documented steady progress toward improved public health preparedness. This year, however, TFAH found that cuts in federal funding for state and local preparedness since 2005, coupled with the cuts states are making to their budgets in response to the economic crisis, put that progress at risk.

"The economic crisis could result in a serious rollback of the progress we've made since Sept. 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina to better prepare the nation for emergencies," says Jeff Levi, executive director of TFAH. "The 25% cut in federal support to protect Americans from diseases, disasters and bioterrorism is already hurting state response capabilities. The cuts to state budgets in the next few years could lead to a disaster for the nation's disaster preparedness."

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