In a new study by researchers from Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), which annually measures the preparedness for each state in the U.S. to handle an outbreak of infectious disease, 28 states and Washington, D.C. all performed unsatisfactorily in regards to the detection, diagnosis, and response to an outbreak.
States were ranked on a scale of zero to ten, using publicly available data to evaluate the competency of each state on a number of different issues, including flu vaccinations, healthcare-associated infections, superbugs, food safety and other metrics.
Residents from Delaware, Kentucky, Maine, New York and Virginia will be pleased to know that their states rank highest in the country this year, with a score of 8 out of 10. Alaska, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Nebraska came in next, with a 7 out of 10 ranking.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah were found to have the poorest preparedness for infectious disease. These states came in tied with a score of just 3 out of 10.
This year marks the third that TFAH has released this report. Arkansas, which was ranked in 2014 to be the worst state in the country at 2 points — the worst in the country — rebounded significantly this year, where it was awarded 6. Other states, like Florida, have moved in the other direction. In 2014, Florida received 6 out of 10, compared to 4 out of 10 this year.
According to Dr. Jeffrey Levi, executive director for TFAH, some of the major contributing problems to the U.S.’s health system infrastructure include the unnecessary prescription of antibiotics and the underuse of disease preventing vaccinations. “The overuse of antibiotics and underuse of vaccinations along with unstable and insufficient funding have left major gaps in our country’s ability to prepare for infectious disease threats”, he said.
Only eighteen states reportedly vaccinated more than half of their population in preparation for flu season, according to Modern Healthcare, though this was a step up from the previous year in which only fourteen were reported to be satisfactory.
The researchers recommend more emphasis be placed on protecting the country from newer infectious disease threats, such as the antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Food borne illness, whooping cough, gonorrhea and tuberculosis were also listed as threats that need more attention.
“We cannot afford to continue to be complacent”, said Dr. Levi. “Infectious diseases — which are largely preventable — disrupt the lives of millions of Americans and contribute to billions of dollars in unnecessary health care costs each year”.