WASHINGTON – On the 10th annual “Ready or Not? Protecting the Public from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism” report, Rhode Island scored a 5 out of 10 on the key indicators of public health preparedness.
The report, issued by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, was released Wednesday and found “persistent gaps” in the country’s ability to respond to health emergencies.
Rhode Island shared its score with Alaska, Arizona, Washington, D.C., Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia. The majority of states earned a 6 or lower in the report, with Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Vermont and Wisconsin ranking highest with scores of 8.
Scores were compiled based on a list of 10 indicators, including infectious disease control and extreme weather event preparedness. States got a point for each of the 10 indicators they qualified for.
Rhode Island earned points for:
Response readiness - Was the state able to notify and immediately assemble (within the goal time of 60 minutes) public health staff to ensure a quick response to an incident in 2011?
Infectious disease control - Does the state require Medicaid to cover flu shots with no copays for beneficiaries under the age of 65?
Health system preparedness - Does the state participate in a Nurse Licensure Compact?
Public health laboratories staffing and surge capacity - Does the state public health laboratory report having enough staffing capacity to work five, 12-hour days for six to eight weeks in response to an infectious disease outbreak, such as a novel influenza A H1N1, from Aug. 10, 2011, to Aug. 9, 2012?
Public health laboratories (chemical threat preparedness) - Did the state public health laboratory report having increased or maintained their Laboratory Response Network for Chemical Threats (LRN-C) chemical capability from Aug. 10, 2011 to Aug. 9, 2012?
Rhode Island did not earn points for the following five indicators:
Funding commitment - Did the state maintain or increase funding for public health programs from FY 2010-2011 to FY 2011-12?
Infectious disease control and vaccinations - Did the state meet the HHS goal of vaccinating 90 percent of 19- to 35-month-olds against whooping cough?
Extreme weather event preparedness - Does the state currently have a complete climate change adaptation plan?
Community resiliency - Does the state mandate all licensed child-care facilities to have a multi-hazard written evacuation and relocation plan?
Emergency management - Has the state been accredited by the Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP)?
“Public health preparedness has improved leaps and bounds from where we were 10 years ago,” said Paul Kuehnert, director of the Public Health Team at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in prepared remarks. “But severe budget cuts at the federal, state and local levels threaten to undermine that progress. We must establish a baseline of ‘better safe than sorry’ preparedness that should not be crossed.”