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According to this year’s numbers, U.S. public health systems continue to improve overall.
Maryland is best poised to respond to a public health crisis, while Nevada and Alaska are least prepared, according to a national index released earlier this month.
The National Health Security Preparedness Index measures states’ readiness to respond to health disasters, including natural disasters, terrorism and disease outbreaks—think Zika or Ebola.
The index began in 2013 as a project by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but is compiled annually now as a collaborative effort involving more than 30 organizations, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
By analyzing 140 measures—including the percentage of bridges in good or fair condition, flu vaccination rates and the number of pediatricians—the index calculates a composite score to determine health preparedness for the country as a whole, as well as individual scores for each state.
According to this year’s numbers, public health systems in the United States continue to improve overall. The country as a whole scored a 7.1 out of a possible 10, nearly a 3 percent improvement from last year and an almost 11 percent improvement since 2013, when the first index scores were released.
The largest gains from last year were in information and incident management, which measures state and local governments’ ability to “deploy people, supplies, money and information to the locations where they are most effective in protecting health,” according to the index.
But challenges remain, including inequities in health security. The highest-scoring state (Maryland) ranks 25 percent higher than the lowest states (Alaska and Nevada). Generally, states in the deep South and the Mountain West regions lag behind states in the Northeast and the Pacific Northwest, and many of the lower-scoring states--which face elevated risks of disasters—are home to disproportionate numbers of low-income residents.
Eighteen states received preparedness scores that exceed the national average, while 21 fell below. The District of Columbia and 38 states increased their overall health security in the last year. Eight states remained steady and four declined.
View all the state-level data here.
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.
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