Iowa scored a 7-out-of-10 on a new national report that gauges the states on being prepared for public health emergencies. Serena Vinter, senior research associate of the group Trust for America’s Health, says the report ranked the states’ preparedness to address several issues, from obesity to bioterrorism to pandemic flu.
“Iowa has shown great progress over the past several years that we’ve done this report in terms of its public health lab capacity,” Vinter says. “They’ve done a great job of upgrading that. They are able to identify food-borne disease outbreaks at a rate that’s greater the national average. Iowa is one of a handful of states that was able to maintain or increase its level of funding for public health services.”
Other areas where Iowa did well on the report include the fact the state bought 50% or more of its share of federally-subsidized anti-viral medications to prepare for a potential pandemic flu outbreak. Another plus, Iowa tracks diseases through an Internet system used by the CDC. Also, Iowa has a law or legal opinion in place to limit liability against organizations that provide volunteer help during emergencies. Vinter says there were a few areas where the state could show improvement.
One of the ten key factors looks at whether state-regulated child care facilities are required to have emergency evacuation plans in place, an indicator that Iowa did not meet. In another area, Vinter says Iowa does not have a dedicated person acting as a statewide coordinator of medical reserve corps units.
“These are basically your fellow citizens sign up to volunteer,” Vinter says. “They do a lot of work on regular health issues, like flu vaccination clinics or if there’s flooding, maybe they’ll staff some sort of shelter.” They also respond to emergencies and without a state coordinator, she says it’s harder to “get those pieces all moving together as one.” Overall, no states scored ten out of ten, while eight states earned nines.
Two-thirds of the states ranked seven — like Iowa — or lower, while Montana had the worst ranking, a three. For full details on the “Ready or Not” report, visit: “www.healthyamericans.org“.