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State and local health departments have made significant progress toward improving public health emergency preparedness and response capabilities, says a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Today's report indicates that our nation is better prepared to respond to a public health emergency. It also reminds us that preparedness challenges remain and our efforts need to continue," says Dr. Ali Khan, director of CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response. "We must foster improvements for rapid awareness, identification, and communication of health threats; measurable preparedness goals and response plans; and ongoing support for state and local public health."
The report, "Public Health Preparedness: Strengthening the Nation's Emergency Response State by State," presents data on a broad range of preparedness and response activities.
-- Nearly 90 percent of states and localities demonstrated the ability to activate and rapidly staff their emergency operations centers for drills, exercises, or real incidents, and 96 percent developed after action reports/improvement plans following these activities.
-- Biological laboratory capabilities and capacities were strong in most states and localities. Nearly 90 percent of laboratories in the Laboratory Response Network (LRN) could be reached 24/7, and 94 percent of the labs passed proficiency tests for detecting other biological agents.
-- 72 percent of LRN chemical laboratories demonstrated proficiency in core methods for detecting and measuring exposure to chemical agents (72 percent), and more than half of the labs are proficient in one or more additional methods identified by CDC as important for responding to chemical emergencies.
-- All states and localities could receive and investigate urgent disease reports 24/7, and more than 90 percent of states used rapid methods to communicate with other laboratories for outbreaks, routine updates, and other needs.
The CDC's approach has been to support public health preparedness for all hazards, including natural, biological, chemical, radiological, and nuclear events. The report provides a better understanding of national and state challenges and the areas where more progress needs to be made.
Key challenges include:
-- Preparing adequately for outbreaks and other public health emergencies that may occur simultaneously. This requires predictable and adequate long-term funding to improve infrastructure, staffing, and staff training in the areas of surveillance, epidemiology, laboratories, communication, and response readiness.
-- Quality surveillance and epidemiology can be crucial to initiating, guiding, and evaluating responses to public health emergencies. Gaps exist for measuring preparedness in the areas of surveillance and epidemiology.
-- An all-hazards approach to preparedness blends with efforts to promote health and prevention of disease, injury, and disability in communities. Healthy populations are more resilient to new health threats. Building healthier communities also helps provide greater protection to populations who are more vulnerable during emergencies.
The CDC released the report during ASTHO's Directors of Public Health Preparedness conference in Newport, Rhode Island, today. The report and state specific information is available on CDC's web site at http://emergency.cdc.gov/publications/2010phprep.