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Juan Buitrago / USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee
How prepared is Tennessee for a public health emergency?
More prepared than Alaska, Ohio or Texas; nowhere near as prepared as tiny Massachusetts or Rhode Island.
“Ready or Not? Protecting the Public’s Health from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism,” a December report by the nonpartisan nonprofit policy organization Trust for America’s Health, puts Tennessee squarely in the middle of states, saying it’s achieved five of 10 preparedness indicators.
Tennessee got points for increasing or maintaining public health funding from fiscal year 2015 to fiscal year 2017; participating in an enhanced nurse licensure compact, which lets nurses licensed in one state provide care during emergencies to people in other states without having to get additional licenses; providing biosafety training in its state laboratory, and staffing the lab with a biosafety professional; and increasing its overall preparedness scores 2015-2016 based on the National Health Security Preparedness Index.
It could have raised its score if the state public health department were accredited, as in 30 states and the District of Columbia; if 70 percent or more of Tennessee hospitals met Antibiotic Stewardship Program core elements; if it joined the U.S. Climate Alliance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement, as 14 states have; and if it had paid sick leave law, like eight states and D.C. Having at least half Tennessee’s population 6 months or older vaccinated for seasonal flu between fall 2016 and spring 2017 would have added a point. Twenty states met that goal. Tennessee came close; 46.3 percent of state residents had a flu shot during the 2015-2016 flu season, the CDC reported.
Alaska ranked the lowest among states, scoring only 2 out of 10. Texas, which battled hurricanes in 2017, scored 3; Florida scored 6, as did California. Indiana, which dealt with an outbreak of HIV and hepatitis C in a rural area, scored 3.
More: Read the full report
The report, supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, noted federal funding for preparedness has been cut by more than half since 2002.
“While we’ve seen great public health preparedness advances, often at the state and community level, progress is continually stilted, halted and uneven,” said John Auerbach, president and CEO of Trust for America’s Health. “As a nation, we — year after year — fail to fully support public health and preparedness. If we don’t improve our baseline funding and capabilities, we’ll continue to be caught completely off guard when hurricanes, wildfires and infectious disease outbreaks hit.”
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