The departments of Homeland Security and HHS, together with other federal agencies, should help states address gaps in planning for an influenza pandemic, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office. HHS generally concurred and DHS with the recommendation, the report said.
From June 2007 through September 2007, GAO officials visited the countrys five most populous statesCalifornia, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texasto meet its multiple objectives of: describing how selected states and localities are planning for an influenza pandemic, and how their efforts involve the federal government, other local agencies, tribal nations and not-for-profit organizations; describing the extent to which certain states and localities have conducted exercises to test their planning efforts; and identifying how the federal government can improve state and local efforts.
All five states and 10 localities we reviewed, both urban and rural, had developed influenza pandemic plans, GAO officials wrote in their report. In addition, all 50 states have developed an influenza pandemic plan in accordance with federal pandemic funding requirements, according to CDC officials. During fiscal 2006, Congress provided HHS $600 million in supplemental funding specifically for state and local influenza pandemic planning and exercises, which has been administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The last portion of these funds will be distributed this year, the GAO said.
Since the GAO visits, HHS provided feedback to states on whether theyre addressing 22 priority areas, such as policy processes and school closures. On average, the department found many major gaps in 16 of the 22 areas. In March 2008, HHS, the Homeland Security Department and other federal agencies issued guidance to help states update their plans.
While the federal government has provided influenza pandemic guidance on a variety of topics, the GAO report noted, state and local officials told us they would welcome additional guidance. -- by Jessica Zigmond
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