Report alleges gaps in U.S. health emergency preparedness

The Ebola virus | Courtesy of the CDC

In the report, "Outbreaks: Protecting Americans from Infectious Diseases 2014," released by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Foundation in December 2014, alleged weaknesses in the nation's emergency medical-response systems are highlighted.

The Ebola outbreak that has hit West Africa has been raging for over a year, and the report said it showcases gaps in U.S. national defense and preparedness in the case of an outbreak or attack. From the period between the attacks of 9/11 and anthrax to the present day, governments from the federal level down to state and city governments have put into practice measures of readiness in hospitals and municipalities. Although every state has received funding to improve outbreak management and emergency preparedness, the report cites errors, judgment lapses and furious efforts to put reactionary measures into place as a cause for concern.

Public health emergency preparation has improved in the post-9/11 period, but gaps in policy grow with continued cuts to preparedness-program budgets. Approximately 47 states reported that they conducted exercises or analyzed a current outbreak event to test laboratory response; 27 states and Washington, D.C., were reported as being at or above the national average for the Incident and Information Management within the National Health Security Preparedness Index.

On vaccinations, the report said that over 2 million preschoolers and at least 35 percent of the elderly have not received recommended vaccinations. Approximately 14 states reported that they have vaccinated over half of their populations against the seasonal influenza virus from fall 2013 to spring 2014. Approximately 15 states did not meet goals for the vaccination of young children against hepatitis B under the Healthy People 2020 target of 90 percent of children ages 19 months to 35 months, with three doses of vaccine.

The findings in this report aim to give the public, health care professionals and policy makers an objective look at what issues  national public health systems and preparedness programs face.