An annual assessment of the nation’s day-to-day preparedness for managing community health emergencies improved slightly over the last year—though deep regional inequities remain.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has released the results of the 2017 National Health Security Preparedness Index, which found the United States scored a 6.8 on a 10-point scale for preparedness—a 1.5 percent improvement over the last year, and a 6.3 percent improvement since the Index began four years ago.
The Preparedness Index analyzes more than 130 measures—such as hazard planning in public schools, monitoring food and water safety, wireless 9-1-1 capabilities, flu vaccination rates, and numbers of paramedics and hospitals—to calculate a composite score that provides the most comprehensive picture of health security and preparedness available.
Despite improvements in nearly two-thirds of states, significant inequities in preparedness exist across the nation: a gap of 32 percent separates the highest state (Vermont, 7.8) and the lowest state (Alaska, 5.9). Generally, states in the Deep South and Mountain West regions—many of which face elevated risks of disasters and contain disproportionate numbers of low-income residents—lag behind Northeast and Pacific Coast states.
Eighteen states achieved preparedness levels that significantly exceed the national average in 2016, and 20 states are significantly below the national average. A total of 33 states increased their overall preparedness levels between 2015 and 2016, while 14 remained level and four states declined.
Originally developed by the CDC as a tool to drive dialogue to improve health security and preparedness, the Index remains a collaborative effort involving more than 30 organizations. State health officials, emergency management experts, business leaders, nonprofits, researchers, and others help shape the Index each year through its National Advisory Committee and expert workgroups.