“Improving health security and preparedness is important for all communities across the country. In our highly mobile country, national emergency preparedness depends on having high levels of protection in every state, city, and region,” said Alonzo Plough, PhD, MPH, chief science officer and a vice president at RWJF. “These data highlight where strengths and gaps in preparedness lie, and can inform approaches to improve health security throughout America.”
Despite improvements in nearly two-thirds of states, significant inequities in preparedness exist across the nation: a gap of 32 percent separates the highest state (Vermont, 7.8) and the lowest state (Alaska, 5.9). Generally, states in the Deep South and Mountain West regions—many of which face elevated risks of disasters and contain disproportionate numbers of low-income residents—lag behind Northeast and Pacific Coast states.
“Equal protection remains an elusive goal in health security, as rural and low-resource regions have fewer and weaker protections in place,” said Glen Mays, PhD, MPH, who leads a team of researchers at the University of Kentucky in developing the Index. “Closing the gaps in preparedness among states and regions remains a national priority.”
Eighteen states achieved preparedness levels that significantly exceed the national average in 2016, and 20 states are significantly below the national average. A total of 33 states increased their overall preparedness levels between 2015 and 2016, while 14 remained level and four states declined.
“Health security and preparedness have wide-ranging impact in our communities,” said Stephen C. Redd, MD, RADM, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC’s) Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response. “The Index can help us see where investments are producing returns, and where more work is needed to build public health emergency response capacity."
Based on a model informed by experts in public health, emergency management, government, academia, health care, and other sectors, researchers collect, aggregate, and measure preparedness data from more than 50 sources. The final measures fall into six categories, each of which is assessed independently, and cover topics such as: