Emergency response report shows weak spots
BY World's Editorials Writers
Saturday, December 29, 2012
12/29/12 at 4:37 AM
Well, at least Oklahoma didn't come in near the bottom on one of the latest reports measuring how well we're doing. The national report on public health preparedness, in fact, puts Oklahoma pretty much smack dab in the middle, giving us good marks on six out of 10 key indicators of how well we're prepared to deal with such catastrophes as extreme weather events, a flu pandemic or a food-borne outbreak.
The Trust for America's Health report gave 35 states and Washington, D.C., a score of six or lower on the measures of preparedness for a widespread emergency.
Executive Director Jeffrey Levi, listing some of the huge public-health emergencies the country has faced in recent years, said the findings show that "for some reason, as a country, we haven't learned that we need to bolster and maintain a consistent level of health emergency preparedness.
"Budget cuts and complacency are the biggest threats we face," he said.
The report is based on historical data that reflect the ability of states to respond to such calamities as a pandemic, bioterrorism event, or weather-related disaster.
Cuts at all levels to public-health budgets were high on the list of problem areas.
Oklahoma got bad marks for not allowing nurses to have multistate licenses; for not meeting a federal goal of vaccinating 90 percent of children 19 to 35 months old against whooping cough; for not requiring Medicaid coverage for free flu shots for recipients under age 65, and for not having a complete climate-change adaptation plan.
The state got high marks for its ability to gather together staff to respond quickly to emergencies; a requirement that child-care facilities have written evacuation and relocation plans; increased or maintained funding from fiscal 2011 to fiscal 2012; accreditation from the Emergency Management Accreditation Program; and two points for its public-health lab response ability.
Overall, it appears Oklahoma's emergency preparedness is not bad, and certainly about as good as everyone else's. But the report does spotlight how complex and interwoven an emergency response can be. We can't expect state emergency programs to protect us from any and every danger out there. While the state continues to improve on its ability to respond to such crises as weather disasters, we can play a role by undertaking such individual actions as keeping our vaccinations up to date.
Original Print Headline: Be prepared
Oklahoma was given low marks for not meeting the vaccination levels for whooping cough and for not requiring Medicaid coverage for free flu shots for recipients under age 65. Associated Press file