“Outbreaks: Protecting Americans from Infectious Diseases”

A new report by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows gaps in U.S. preventive measures against infectious diseases. Photo by TFAH

Protecting against infectious disease is among the world’s greatest health challenges right now. Sadly the U.S. is not ready to prevent or respond to disease outbreak, according to data released today by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Outbreaks: Protecting Americans from Infectious Diseases” reported on each state’s capabilities of protecting against disease threats, finding that 34 states did not demonstrate more than half of the readiness “indicators.” Additionally:

  • three out of four states failed to vaccinate at least 50 percent of their population against the flu;
  • only Connecticut, Delaware and Washington, D.C., vaccinate at least 90 percent of pre-schoolers against the whooping cough, the number recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services;
  • less than 50 percent of states require human papillomavirus, or HPV vaccinations, education for parents about the vaccine or funding for vaccinations; and
  • one in three states do not cover routine HIV screening under its Medicaid program.

“From antibiotic-resistant Superbugs to Salmonella to the seasonal flu, infectious diseases disrupt lives and communities,” said Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH. “The bad news is that we found major gaps in the country’s ability to prevent, control and treat outbreaks, leaving Americans at an unacceptable level of unnecessary risk.”

The report includes numerous recommendations to strengthen the nation’s capacity to stave off disease. Among them, increasing the number of Americans receiving recommended vaccinations and routine screenings are “the safest and most effective ways to reduce infectious diseases in the United States.”

This year marks a departure from the yearly “Ready or Not” series released by TFAH and RWJF to measure overall public health preparedness. Both organizations, along with APHA, are partners of the recently released National Health Security Preparedness Index, a collaborative that aims to measure and advance emergency preparedness in the U.S.