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U.S. Continues to Improve Preparedness for Health Emergencies

April 20, 2018

The country’s ability to respond to and recover from any large-scale health emergency is becoming more important as security threats increase in the United States and globally. During 2017, the United States spent more than $300 billion responding to disasters and emergency events.

Health security threats are unpredictable and often occurring with little notice. They include infectious disease, natural disasters and weather events, and terrorism. Improving the country’s ability to respond to and manage such emergencies is critical.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) recent release of the 2018 National Health Security Preparedness Index scored the United States’ overall preparedness at a 7.1 on a 10-point scale. This score represents a nearly 3 percent improvement compared to last year. The index is used to identify strengths and weaknesses in the country’s ability to keep Americans safe during large public health threats. The data used for the index is collected from 64 difference sources, and includes 140 measures.

Although individual state scores are not available, Pennsylvania is above the national average for 2017 data for the second year in a row.

Key findings from the newly released report include:

  • At its current “modest” pace of improvement, the United States will need another nine years to attain a strong health security level
  • 38 states and the District of Columbia improved their individual scores; eight states’ scores remained unchanged; four states’ scores declined
  • Significant differences in health security exist across states and regions; the Deep South, Southwestern, and Upper Mountain West regions continue to measure significantly lower than the rest of the country
  • During 2017, about 40 percent of the U.S. population lived in regions with below-average health security scores
  • Poverty and health insurance coverage are strong links to a state’s health security level

Health security and preparedness remain a significant priority for HAP and its members. Hospitals have plans in place to deal with large-scale emergencies and disasters, and continue to evaluate and improve their preparedness programs through regular drills and staff training.

HAP, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, provides support to enhance hospital and health system preparedness and response efforts across the state. Member hospitals are able to obtain support for:

  • All-hazards planning, training, and exercises
  • Development of regional Hazard Vulnerability Assessments
  • Implementation of Knowledge Center—a statewide, web-based situational awareness and health care coordination program
  • Staffing health and medical personnel at the local, regional, or state level

More information about HAP’s emergency preparedness initiative is available at HAP’s website, or by contacting Mark Ross, vice president, emergency preparedness.

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