A new report out this week finds that Kansas and Missouri are vulnerable in key areas when it comes to being prepared for a public health emergency, like a disease outbreak or natural disaster.
Rich Hamburg is with Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), the non-profit group that issued the report. He says Kansas tied with Montana in being ranked last for preparedness. He says funding for public health programs was one area where the state fell short.
“Kansas went down by 6 percent, which is at least the third year in a row that we’ve seen the cuts," says Hamburg. "So if you don’t have the resources, the people to help promote and manage these programs, you know, that’s a major problem.”
Missouri ranked in the middle of the pack, but also fell short on funding.
Hamburg says both states, and most others, failed to reach federal vaccine goals. Unlike in Missouri, the report found that child care facilities in Kansas aren’t required to have evacuation and relocation plans. The state health lab also lacks staffing and surge capacity, in the event of an infectious disease outbreak lasting six to eight weeks.
But Hamburg says nationwide and including in Kansas, there have been improvements in public health preparedness, especially since 9/11.
12/21/12 Update: The governor and and the state's department of health and environment have since issued a response to the report, defending the Kansas' ability to react to health emergencies.
"The report does not provide an accurate and thorough picture of the state’s readiness to respond to health emergencies, disasters or terrorism," said Governor Sam Brownback. "Kansas is no stranger to disasters and in recent years has responded to health emergencies including H1N1 pandemic and other disease outbreaks as well as tornados, floods, snow storms, and ice storms."
The state also notes that the report changes the measures it evaluates each year, with Kansas scoring much higher in the past.
"This scorecard’s criteria are chosen by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the foundation changes the criteria, or indicators, each year it has published its report. Since 2006, Kansas’ score in the Trust for America’s Health report has fluctuated, even scoring 9 out of 10 one year. No matter the score, the report presents a skewed view of public health readiness, draws inaccurate conclusions and in no way indicates the actual preparedness level in Kansas," said Robert Moser, M.D., Secretary and State Health Officer of Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
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