After the CDC warned that outbreaks of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 are likely, Glen Mays, Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Systems, Management, and Policy wrote for Public Health Economics about preparedness in the face of uneven distribution of protective resources.
Public health protections are largely state and local responsibilities, provided through a constellation of public agencies and private organizations. In preparing for COVID-19, healthcare providers, first responders, and members of the public need to be aware of the emergency preparedness capabilities that exist in their area.
Mays directs people to the National Health Security Preparedness Index to review detailed measures of emergency preparedness capabilities in your state and region. This index is the only national, longitudinal source of data on preparedness for the U.S. Because health security is a responsibility shared by many different stakeholders in government and society, the Index combines measures from more than 60 sources and multiple perspectives to offer a broad view of protection. Aggregating large volumes of data from national household surveys, medical records, safety inspection results, and surveys of health agencies and facilities, the Index produces composite measures of health security for each U.S. state and the nation as a whole. The Index reveals strengths as well as vulnerabilities in the protections needed to keep people safe and healthy in the face of emergencies, and it tracks how these protections vary across the United States and change over time.
Data from the Index indicate that readiness for disease outbreaks and other emergencies has been improving over time, but current levels of health security remain far from optimal. Large differences in health security persist across states and regions, with clusters of states in the South-Central, Upper Mountain West, Pacific Coast, and Midwest regions lagging significantly behind the rest of the nation. Growth in the frequency and intensity of health security threats may outpace growth in the nation’s health security protections in the years to come, resulting in greater risks to population health.