North Dakota does well in emergency studyNorth Dakota is better prepared than more than half the states for public health emergencies, a new study shows. A state official says there is more work to do, and he worries about a dwindling pool of federal money.
By: By Blake Nicholson, The Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — North Dakota is better prepared than more than half the states for public health emergencies, a new study shows. A state official says there is more work to do, and he worries about a dwindling pool of federal money.
North Dakota is one of 10 states that performed adequately in eight of the 10 categories measured by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Only 12 states got satisfactory marks in nine or all 10 of the categories, which include such things as having an adequate plan to distribute emergency vaccines and having a federally compatible disease surveillance system.
Tim Wiedrich, chief of the North Dakota Health Department’s emergency preparedness and response section, said the study criteria changes from year to year but he believes the study still is a worthwhile measurement.
“I think that local public health (in North Dakota), the medical system, state public health have all worked very, very hard to increase our preparedness,” Wied-rich said. “We are faring well.”
North Dakota got docked in this year’s study for lacking a state lab with an intrastate courier system. The study also found the state lacked liability protection for businesses and nonprofits that could help in a public health emergency.
Wiedrich said neither has been a problem. However, he said officials are considering an intrastate courier system rather than relying on common carriers such as FedEx, and that he thinks it might be worthwhile for state lawmakers to consider the liability issue.
The emergency preparedness program started after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Overall, Wiedrich said, “We are far better off today than we were at the beginning of this program.”
The study said the economic crisis and budget cuts around the nation threaten the progress made in recent years to better protect the country from disease outbreaks, natural disasters and terrorism.
Federal funding for state and local preparedness has been cut 25 percent since 2005, said Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust.
“States are being asked to do more with less, jeopardizing our safety, security, and health,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Federal funding to North Dakota for public health preparedness has fallen from about $6.9 million in 2002 to about $5 million this fiscal year, Wiedrich said. Federal money to prepare North Dakota hospitals has dropped from about $1.9 million to about $1.2 million.
“There simply is not enough funding to do everything that has to be done in terms of preparedness,” Wiedrich said. “We have been forced to prioritize, and as further cuts occur, there will be a direct correlation between the level of preparedness we’ve obtained and our ability to sustain it.”