Eight of 19 public health agencies in a Rand Corp. test met deadlines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for responding to urgent reports about possible cases of suspicious diseases. In addition to responding to all urgent reports within 30 minutes, two of the eight agencies also were able to transfer all callers to a person responsible for handling such reports. Overall, the 19 agencies returned 91% of the 143 calls within the recommended time frame, according to Rand's study published online by Health Affairs. The health policy research organization said it was trying to develop a method to test agencies' response times, rather than reach conclusions about how well agencies respond, as part of a broader effort to come up with ways to measure the performance of public health agencies. In the HHS-funded study, researchers posed as physicians or nurses and reported fictitious cases of such diseases as anthrax, bubonic plague, botulism and smallpox. There are about 2,800 public health agencies nationwide. Read the report. -- by Joseph Mantone
Gaps found in public-health response to urgent reports
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