Politics & Government

SC in top half of states for public health preparedness

South Carolina scored a 7 on a report by the Trust for America's Health titled "Ready or Not? Protecting the Public from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism," placing it into the top half of states according to 10 indicators of public health preparedness.

The authors found "the nation is often caught off guard when a new threat arises, such as Zika or the Ebola outbreak or bioterrorist threat, which then requires diverting attention and resources away from other priorities."

In the report, Alaska and Idaho scored lowest at 3 out of 10, and Massachusetts scored the highest at 10 out of 10. North Carolina and Washington state scored 9s.

"Health emergencies can quickly disrupt, derail and divert resources from other ongoing priorities and efforts from across the government," said Rich Hamburg, Trust for America's Health interim president and chief executive.

Hamburg said many areas of progress that were made after the terrorist attacks of 2001 to improve health security have been undercut by budget reductions. "We aren't adequately maintaining a strong and steady defense, leaving us unnecessarily vulnerable when new threats arise."

South Carolina's score of 7 is a pretty strong score, said Albert Lang, senior communications manager for the health group. He said the state does well as far as preparing for climate change and adopting new technologies.

Lang said South Carolina is among only 10 states to get a positive rating in emergency health care access.

"That's ensuring that doctors and nurses and responders can get into an area that is deemed an emergency zone and can provide care," he said. "A lot of states don't have rules and regulations and laws that encourage that, but South Carolina having them means they don't have to create them in a disaster, and that's a big deal."

Some key findings of the study include: 26 states increased or maintained funding for public health from fiscal year 2014-15 to fiscal year 2015-16; just 10 states vaccinated at least half of their population, ages 6 months and older, against the seasonal flu from July 2015 to May 2016; and 10 states, including South Carolina, have a formal access program or a program in progress for getting private-sector health-care staff and supplies into restricted areas during a disaster.

A troubling trend identified in the report is that health emergency preparedness funding for states has been cut from $940 million in fiscal year 2002 to $660 million in fiscal year 2016, and health care system preparedness funding for states has been cut by more than half since fiscal year 2005 — to $255 million.

SC SCORE SUMMARY

A full list of all of the indicators and scores and the full report are available on Trust for America's Health's website: www.healthyamericans.org. For the state-by-state scoring, states received one point for achieving certain indicators or zero points if they did not achieve the indicator. Zero is the lowest possible overall score, 10 is the highest. The data for the indicators are from publicly available sources or were provided from public officials.

10 out of 10: Massachusetts

9 out of 10: North Carolina and Washington

8 out of 10: California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, Tennessee and Virginia

7 out of 10: Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin

6 out of 10: Arizona, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Vermont

5 out of 10: Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota and West Virginia

4 out of 10: Nevada and Wyoming

3 out of 10: Alaska and Idaho

Trust for America's Health is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority.

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