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California gets high marks for health emergency preparedness, but funding remains a worry

December 15, 2010 | 11:26 am

Emergency Preparedness Are you worried about floods and mudslides? Perhaps salmonella poisoning or an offshore oil spill?

California has done a good job of preparing for public health emergencies, but budget cuts threaten its progress, a new study shows.

The Golden State was among 11 states that received a score of 9 out of 10 on key indicators of public health emergency preparedness in the report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Three states -- Arkansas, North Dakota and Washington -- earned perfect scores for activating their emergency operations centers and using electronic health records to communicate with healthcare providers, among other things.

Authors of the report -– “Ready or Not? Protecting the Public’s Health from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism" –- say their findings have huge economic implications: Disasters are costly for governments and private industry. The Gulf oil spill last summer, for example, cost an estimated $1.2 billion in economic output and led to the loss of 17,000 jobs, the report states.

The analysts say the progress made by many states, including California, could be in jeopardy as public money for disaster preparedness is reduced.

California was among several states that failed to maintain or increase funding for public health services from 2008 to 2010, the study found. Funding shortfalls are compounded by shrinking support from the federal government.

“There is an emergency for emergency health preparedness in the United States,” Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America’s Health, said in a statement. “This year, the Great Recession is taking its toll on emergency health preparedness. Unfortunately, the recent and continued budget cuts will exacerbate the vulnerable areas in U.S. crisis response capabilities and have the potential to reverse the progress we have made over the last decade.”

-- Duke Helfand

Photo: A future firefighter gets help gearing up from a veteran. California received a score of 9 out of 10 in a recent study for its public health emergency preparedness. Credit: Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times