There’s more than one way to deal with public health emergencies, which makes it difficult to compare states on how ready they are for the next crisis.
But a report released this week by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) turned a simple survey with yes/no answers into a 10-point scoring system on where each state stands with respect to 10 indicators.
No state got a perfect score. Massachusetts led the way, hitting nine of the ten indicators, while Alaska brought up the rear with just two.
The indicators were a grab bag, some more nuanced than others. They included:
- Increasing or maintaining funds to public health (achieved by 19 states)
- Increasing “preparedness scores” from 2015 to 2016 (33 states)
- Having an accredited health department (30 states)
- 70% or more hospitals meeting Antibiotic Stewardship Program elements in 2016 (20 states)
- Flu vaccination rate over 50% (20 states)
TFAH also awarded a point for joining the U.S. climate alliance, signifying a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement.
No obvious geopolitical pattern emerged from the effort. States to the west and east of the Mississippi River basin tended to show higher scores than those within it. But many high-scoring states are neither affluent or politically liberal.
“All states should be able to meet basic preparedness goals as defined by federal health officials and leading experts,” the report states. “This report was developed to provide taxpayers and policymakers with information about how well-prepared their states and communities are for different types of health threats.”
In addition to the comparison of states’ readiness, the report also included several in-depth reports on various issues relating to public health emergencies.
An analysis of state-level public health spending examined spending outside of Medicaid, CHIP, and other health coverage programs for low-income residents. Based on that definition, median per capita spending this year was $38.13 — changed little from 2016.
Antibiotic resistance, climate change, support for the public health workforce, and other area of interest were addressed in other areas of the comprehensive report.