Just 14 states met more than six of 10 key measures of readiness to respond to public health emergencies such as bioterrorism or chemical weapons attacks, advocacy group Trust for America's Health said in a new report. While some progress was made -- notably in improving emergency communications systems and public health laboratory capabilities -- states were hampered by the lack of a clear definition of what the public should expect in terms of protection and the lack of standards to measure performance, the group said. It cited several specific concerns including stalled upgrades for disease tracking, an impending workforce shortage and lagging preparation for potential chemical attacks.
Still, 34 states improved their performance on the readiness indicators compared with 2003. Florida and North Carolina were the best prepared, meeting nine indicators, while Alaska and Massachusetts were the worst prepared, meeting three. The indicators included having a pandemic flu plan, having enough laboratory scientists to test for anthrax and having spent 90% of the state's federal bioterror-preparedness funding. Read the report. -- by Joseph Mantone