Since 2002, CDC has distributed more than $5 billion of federal funding to improve public health preparedness and response. In its report, “Public Health Preparedness: Mobilizing State by State,” CDC reveals that state health departments have progressed in the following areas:
- Disease detection and investigation: All state public health departments can now receive urgent reports about disease 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, all states share information using a secure, CDC-based communications system to track disease outbreaks.
- Public health laboratories: The number of laboratories that can test and analyze samples has nearly doubled since 2001.
- Response plans: Every state has developed a detailed emergency response plan to address all hazards, including an influenza pandemic. All states also now have plans to distribute the Strategic National Stockpile’s federal caches of pharmaceuticals, antidotes and medical supplies used for an emergency.
- Training: Public health department workers now receive systematic and routine training for a wide range of crucial emergency response areas.
CDC Director Julie Gerberding lauded the assessment as a major step forward in public health emergency preparedness. She said the report illustrates how CDC’s work has increased states’ capacity to quickly and effectively respond to emergencies and health hazards.
“Today, for example, all states have emergency response plans, improved ability to identify and confirm public health threats, and more consistent and effective collaboration and communication between the many entities involved in responding to public health threats and emergencies,” she said.
Richard Besser, director of CDC’s Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response, acknowledged that while the report presents important data, it “does not provide information on all areas of preparedness.”
“The nation’s public health preparedness information and measures need to improve and CDC continues to engage with states and others to identify and incorporate effective public health emergency preparedness systems that enhance the nation’s ability to respond,” he explained.
The report outlined some of those lingering challenges, as well as areas where progress should be made:
- Improving the ability to quickly dispense medicines and vaccines in an affected community;
- Increasing the use of electronic health data by networking surveillance systems;
- Improving legal preparedness by helping states and other jurisdictions implement public health mutual aid agreements, which enable sharing of supplies, equipment, personnel, and information during emergencies; and
- Exercising public health systems to continuously improve capability and demonstrate readiness.
“As a nation, we are better prepared today to respond to public health threats, but the reality is that these efforts must be ongoing,” Besser said.
The Trust for America’s health (TFAH), which released its fifth annual public health report in December, applauded CDC’s efforts. TFAH Executive Director Jeff Levi said the CDC report “demonstrates the hard work and accomplishments of our nation’s public health agencies.”
Levi pointed out that this is the first time CDC has released details about the advancements states have made with funding allocated for public health preparedness after the 9/11 and anthrax tragedies. The report’s release, he said, is a step forward for transparency and accountability.
“By providing information about progress as well as shortcomings, this report allows policymakers and the public to better understand the need for a committed, sustained investment to maintain and improve preparedness to respond to public health emergencies,” Levi said.
The TFAH report, "Ready or Not? Protecting the Public's Health from Disease, Disasters, and Bioterrorism,” included state-by-state health preparedness scores based on 10 key indicators. To learn more, read Gaps in Nation's Preparedness Threaten Overall Readiness to Respond to Public Health Emergencies.
To access the CDC report, visit http://www.bt.cdc.gov/publications/feb08phprep/.