Budget Cuts, Bureaucratic Red Tape and Interagency Wrangling Hurting
December 14, 2004
The TFAH report, "Ready or Not? Protecting the Public's Health in the Age of Bioterrorism," examines how each state performs on 10 key indicators, which assess areas of improvement and areas of ongoing vulnerability in our nation's effort to prepare against bioterrorism and other large-scale health emergencies.
Alaska was one of twelve states and the District of Columbia to receive a score of three out of 10 possible indicators. A majority of states, 38, earned marks for only half (five) or fewer of the possible 10 indicators. Florida, Maryland and Tennessee scored the highest, with scores of seven out of 10. Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico and Wisconsin scored the lowest, meeting just two of the indicators.
According to the TFAH report, Alaska has made progress to expand the health emergency communications network, upgrade public health laboratories and to develop initial bioterrorism response plans.
However, the report found that Alaska and the rest of the nation face major concerns including: cuts to public health programs in nearly two-thirds of the 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 a major infectious disease outbreak like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), is seriously inadequate.
"Are we ready or not?
The answer is not. Now is the time to get serious about developing
"With bioterrorism, chemical terrorism, SARS, and West Nile virus representing only a handful of today's health threats, federal, state and local health agencies are being pushed and pulled beyond their limits," said Lowell Weicker, Jr., TFAH Board President and former three-term U.S. Senator and Governor of Connecticut. "The federal funding influx has created a perception that America's long-neglected public health system is undergoing rapid and substantial improvements. Instead of public health preparedness becoming a national priority, this report shows that it's become tied up in red tape."
TFAH's report examined every state's preparedness level in three general categories:
To ensure that sufficient preparedness measures are in place, TFAH recommends the following actions:
The report was supported by
grants from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Bauman
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