The H1N1 flu outbreak has shown gaps in the country's ability to respond to public health emergencies as the sluggish economy continues to place strains on an already-burdened public health system, according to a new report by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
H1N1 outbreak exposes shortcomings: study
In its seventh annual report—Ready or Not? Protecting the Public's Health from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism—the two groups found that investments made in pandemic and public-health preparedness over the past several years had dramatically improved U.S. readiness for the H1N1 outbreak, but that decades of chronic underfunding meant that core systems were unprepared.
According to the report, 27 states cut funding for public health from fiscal 2007-2008 to 2008-2009; 13 states have purchased less than 50% of their share of federally subsidized anti-viral drugs to stockpile for use during a flu pandemic; and 11 states and Washington, D.C., reported not having enough laboratory staffing capacity to work five, 12-hour days for six to eight weeks in response to an outbreak.
“As the second wave of H1N1 starts to dissipate, it doesn't mean we can let down our defenses,” said Richard Hamburg, deputy director at the Trust for America's Health, in a news release. “In fact, it's time to double down and provide a sustained investment in the underlying infrastructure, so we will be prepared for the next emergency and the one after that.”
Meanwhile, the study showed that 20 states scored 6 or less out of 10 indicators of public-health emergency preparedness, while nearly two-thirds scored seven or less. Eight states—Arkansas, Delaware, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas and Vermont—tied for the highest score by meeting nine out of 10 indicators.
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