Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation today 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.
According to the report, America’s food safety system has not been fundamentally modernized in more than 100 years.. Twenty states and D.C. did not meet or exceed the national average rate for being able to identify the pathogens responsible for foodborne disease outbreaks in their states.
The report also offers a series of recommendations for improving preparedness, including:
* Restoring Full Funding. At a minimum, federal, state, and local funding for public health emergency preparedness capabilities should be restored to FY 2005 levels.
* Strengthening Leadership and Accountability. The next administration must clarify the public health emergency preparedness roles and responsibilities at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
* Enhancing Surge Capacity and the Public Health Workforce. Federal, state, and local governments and health care providers must better address altered standards of care, alternative care sites, legal concerns to protect community assistance and surge workforce issues.
* Modernizing Technology and Equipment. Communications and surveillance systems and laboratories need increased resources for modernization.
* Improving Community Engagement. Additional measures must be taken to engage communities in emergency planning and to improve protections for at-risk communities.
* Incorporating Preparedness into Health Care Reform and Creating an Emergency Health Benefit. This is needed to contain the spread of disease by providing care to the uninsured and underinsured Americans during major disasters and disease outbreaks.