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US preparedness report card decries funding lag

December 18, 2008
by Robert Roos
Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy

This year's report card from Trust for America's Health (TFAH) on state and national public health emergency preparedness shows some signs of progress along with major gaps, sagging funding, and worry that the current economic crisis will bring deeper spending cuts.

The report finds that "progress made to better protect the country from disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and bioterrorism is now at risk, due to budget cuts and the economic crisis," TFAH, a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group based in Washington, DC, said in a news release. "In addition, the report concludes that major gaps remain in many critical areas of preparedness, including surge capacity, rapid disease detection, and food safety."

TFAH found that more than half of states met seven or fewer of 10 key preparedness criteria used in this year's assessment. The states performed best on planning for distribution of emergency medical products from the Strategic National Stockpile: All 50 have an adequate plan. On the other hand, 26 states lack laws offering liability protection to organizations that provide relief services in public health emergencies.

The 124-page report, titled "Ready or Not? Protecting the Public's Health from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism," was cosponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), based in Princeton, N.J.

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