Not Ready for Prime Time

The report says the estimated cost of infectious diseases in the United States exceeds $120 billion annually.

Most U.S. states are not prepared to protect their populations against infectious disease outbreaks, according to a report released in December 2013 by Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It cites "outdated systems and limited resources" as the reason and says 33 states scored five or worse out of 10 key preparedness indicators.

Tied for the lowest score, 2 out of 10, were Georgia, Nebraska, and New Jersey. States that scored well were New Hampshire, Connecticut, Delaware, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington.

Here's where some states fell short:

  • Only 12 states vaccinate at least half of their populations against seasonal flu.
  • Fifteen states don't require health care facilities to report health care-associated infections.
  • Thirty-three states' public health laboratories didn't test their continuity of operations plans through either a drill or a real event last year.

In addition, 33 states cut their funding for public health from FY 2011-12 to FY 2012-13, according to the Outbreaks: Protecting Americans from Infectious Diseases 2013 report (www.healthyamericans.org/reports/outbreaks2013/).

The report says the estimated cost of infectious diseases in the United States exceeds $120 billion annually, and worldwide they are the leading cause of death of people under the age of 60. It points out that states have the primary legal responsibility for the health of their citizens, and thus their capabilities are all-important in this context, but cooperation by the health care industry, pharmaceutical and medical supply/technology companies, employers, schools, community groups, families, and individuals also it required, the report states.

This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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