Americans face an unacceptable level of risk’ from infectious disease
A new report unveiled by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) suggests that America is ill-prepared to prevent or control infectious disease outbreaks. In Outbreaks: Protecting Americans from Infectious Disease, the authors lay the blame for this predicament on outdated systems and limited resources.
When assessed on key indicators, policies, and capabilities to protect against infectious disease, 32 states received a score of five or lower out of a possible score of 10, according to the report. Georgia, Nebraska, and New Jersey tied for the lowest score at 2, while New Hampshire had the highest score, achieving an 8. Noting that infectious disease prevention requires constant vigilance, the authors state that they found major gaps in the country’s ability to prevent, control, and treat this type of threat. When announcing the findings, Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH, noted that these gaps leave Americans at an unacceptable level of risk.
The report, which was funded by a grant from RWJF, highlights several notable findings, including:
- One-third of the states do not require health care facilities to report health care-associated infections (HAI), and about one out of every 20 hospitalized patients will acquire an HAI.
- Only one-quarter of the states vaccinate at least one-half of their population against seasonal flu outbreaks, and 20% of Americans acquire the flu each year.
- Only Connecticut, Delaware, and Washington, DC, meet the Department of Health and Human Services goal of vaccinating at least 90% of preschoolers against whooping cough.
- Only one-half of the states require human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations, education for parents about the vaccine, or funding for the vaccinations, even though the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend the vaccine for both males and females at the age of 11 or 12.
- One-third of states do not cover routine HIV screening under their Medicaid programs. This is despite the fact that more than 1 million Americans are living with HIV, and nearly one in five are unaware of their HIV-positive status.
- More than half of the country’s public health laboratories did not test their Continuity of Operations plans (COOP) through a drill or a real event last year.
- Two-thirds of the states decreased funding for public health between fiscal year 2011-2012 and fiscal year 2012-2013.
To address these deficiencies, the report makes a series of recommendations that focus on prioritizing disease surveillance and strengthening the country’s capabilities through both workforce enhancements and state-of-the art tools. The report also calls for policies and incentives aimed at reducing HAIs and ensuring that patients receive safe care.
The complete report and state-specific information are available on TFAH’s website at www.healthyamericans.org.