Learn how to improve care transitions and prevent avoidable hospital readmissions, and pick up nursing and medical education con-ed credits.
The nation's public health leaders who gathered in Philadelphia this week confronted a reality so harsh that it frightened even them: Our cities and states are unprepared to handle public-health catastrophes caused by disease, natural disaster or bioterrorism, despite the terrible lessons of 9/11 and the Katrina calamity.
This isn't just because the American Public Health Association's annual meeting, originally scheduled in New Orleans, was one of Katrina's many casualties. These disasters and new reports, such as the one issued by the nonpartisan Trust for America's Health (TFAH) last week, deliver a chilling conclusion: Even now, we fear that no one is watching our backs.
For all the furor over pandemic flu, state and local preparations remain inadequate. In the event of a major bioterrorism attack or crippling natural disaster, Chicago and New York are the only cities ready to distribute vaccines, antidotes, and medical equipment to large numbers of their populations.
Hospitals in one-third of the states have yet to plan effectively for the sudden and massive surge of people who would be injured in a disaster or infected in a bioterror attack.
Only 10 states have public-health labs with adequate facilities, technology, and training to respond to a chemical attack. Half the states don't use the recommended national reporting system to track outbreaks of communicable disease and share information between jurisdictions. And hospitals in only two states, Rhode Island and South Dakota, have extensive plans to keep health care workers on the job during a major outbreak of infectious disease.
We should be somewhat reassured that the federal government is amassing a national stockpile of medicine and medical supplies to be shipped within 12 hours of a terrorist attack, major natural disaster or accident. But 43 states are not ready to distribute these critical supplies locally.
And in words that eerily evoke FEMA's Katrina dysfunction, state and local public-health officials warn, in the TFAH report, that the stockpile is "shrouded in mystery and the worst kind of bureaucracy" and guidance to the states is "anything but helpful."
A post-9/11 preparedness assessment earlier this year found that 80 percent of local public health departments cannot communicate instantly with state health departments, hospitals or local medical practices. Just as on 9/11, when first responders radio for help, no one can hear because the networks are not compatible.
The bottom line is that more than four years after 9/11, our government is not living up to its obligation to protect the security and health of our people.
There is an answer, a three-pronged strategy that America can begin carrying out right now.
When the different sectors of a community team up to protect the safety of their families and each other, it's called "connectedness" and it's time it became the rallying cry of emergency preparedness so no one, ever again, is left behind in these days of terror and threat.
The public has every right to expect that the strongest and most powerful country in the world would be ready for the very worst, but it is not.
We don't have much time left to make this right. Until we are able to put moral purpose ahead of expedient politics, history will judge us a democracy unwilling or unable to take care of its own.
Thomas H. Kean is former governor of New Jersey and chairman of the board of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., is the foundation's president and CEO
Contact Risa Lavizzo-Mourey at email@example.com.
The RWJF Roadmaps to Health Prize honors outstanding community partnerships which are helping people live healthier lives. The six winners w...
Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas examines the ways that the gambling industry has designed gambling machines that encourag...
Mildred Dalton Manning, the last surviving member of a group of U.S. Army and Navy nurses taken prisoner in the Philippines at the start of ...
A study finds that 96 percent of nurse practitioners and 76 percent of physicians agreed with IOM report recommendation that “nurse practiti...
A national conversation highlighting efforts to improve care transitions, reduce avoidable hospital readmissions, and lift overall quality o...
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is working to increase awareness and understanding of the impact of ACEs and the need to develop effectiv...
While the need to address disparities in care is well known, few strategies for reducing disparities have been studied systematically.
"Many African American men are invisible from health care settings until their health conditions are severe," Keon Gilbert writes.
Playworks improving the health and well-being of children through safe, meaningful play
Team members, grantees, and guests discuss breakthrough ideas that will allow us to move toward solving challenges in health care.
Lori Melichar spoke with Drs. Kevin Volpp and David Asch, co-directors of the Foundation’s Behavioral Economics Initiative at the University...