U.S. Public Health Better Armed Against Threats: CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a major report at 2 p.m. Eastern time today that cites significant improvements in states' public health preparedness since 9/11. All states now have public health labs, the number of epidemiologists working in public health departments more than doubled from 2001 to 2006, and all state public health departments can receive reports of urgent health threats around the clock, 365 days a year -- up from 12 that could do so in 1999.

Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H., CDC's director, and Dr. Richard Besser, M.D., director of the CDC Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response, briefed reporters about the 164-page report Wednesday morning. It cites numerous remaining challenges, including stronger disease surveillance systems, an improved public health lab workforce, greater use of advanced technologies in the labs, and interoperable emergency communication systems for public health and other response agencies -- a continuing problem yet to be fully solved. Expanded lab testing, increasing the use of electronic health data for response/preparedness and using real-time data, and continuous exercising of public health systems are additional challenges cited in the report.

The document, available at www.cdc.gov, lists each state's recent achievements and events, including the I-35W highway bridge collapse in Minneapolis and recent hurricane response efforts. The report says public health departments are still finding it difficult to hire enough qualified epidemiologists.

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