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A new report places Minnesota among the top six states in the nation in preparing for a possible terrorist attack using biological, chemical or radiological agents.
The report was prepared by the Trust for Americas Health (TFAH), a non-partisan, non-profit study group focusing on disease preventions issues. TFAH used publicly available information in preparing its report.
Minnesota received a passing score for eight of ten indicators used by TFAH, placing it in a tie with Nebraska, New Hampshire and Virginia. Only Florida and North Carolina had higher scores, with passing grades on nine of the 10 indicators.
This is the second annual TFAH report on public health preparedness for health-related terrorist attacks. Last year, Minnesota only received a passing score for five of the 10 indicators, placing it among the top 24 states nationwide. However, Minnesota officials also pointed out that last years report used a slightly different set of indicators.
Indicators for which Minnesota received a passing score this year included:
-- making effective use of federal preparedness funding provided to the states
-- maintaining or increasing state-level funding for public health activities
-- coordinating public health preparedness planning between state and local government
-- having a relatively young public health workforce, with less than 25 percent eligible to retire within five years
-- having sufficient bio-safety level three laboratory capacity to handle lab work relating to possible terrorist incidents
-- having the legal authority to quarantine individuals who could be infectious during an infectious disease emergency
-- achieving an increase in the percentage of people over 65 who have been vaccinated against influenza
-- having in place a plan for responding to a possible outbreak of pandemic influenza
The two indicators for which Minnesota did not receive a passing score included having enough lab personnel to test for plague or anthrax during a possible bioterrorism attack, and having a system for tracking disease on a daily basis using the Internet.
Officials at the Minnesota Department of Health believe the report may not reflect the most recent information about public health preparedness in Minnesota, especially regarding the availability of laboratory staff to handle possible bioterrorism events. They also noted that Internet-based systems are only one tool for tracking disease. However, they were also gratified to be recognized for their efforts by TFAH.
Since 9-11, we have had a broad coalition of agencies and organizations working very hard to increase our level of preparedness for health-related terrorist attacks, said Dianne Mandernach, Minnesota Commissioner of Health. The team includes both my agency and local public health agencies, all across the state. It also includes law enforcement, state and local emergency management personnel, the healthcare system, and major voluntary organizations.
Were happy to see that all this hard work is beginning to pay off, and that were being recognized for it at the national level, Mandernach said.
TFAH, the group that prepared the new report, describes its mission as saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority. TFAH is sponsored by a number of major foundations, including the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Support for the new preparedness report was also provided by the Bauman Foundation and the New York Community Trust.