HEALTH

NJ above average when it comes to public health preparedness

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

“As a nation, we’re simply not making enough of an investment in our public health security,” said Paul Kuehnert, from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

A new report issued by the Trust for America’s Health highlights how prepared we are as a country when it comes to public health. The 50 states and the District of Colombia were all ranked in ten categories.

“Half of the states scored a five or lower on 10 key indicators of public health preparedness,” said John Auerbach, the president and CEO of the Trust for America’s Health..

All in all, New Jersey reached a score of a six out of 10, which puts us above average. Only Rhode Island and Massachusetts received a high score of nine. Alaska received the lowest score with two.

So what exactly needs to be done? The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provided some answers. When you boil it down, the biggest issue seems to be funding. The report shows on a national level funds have been cut by about half since 2002.

“What we’re looking at are the general funds for public health preparedness, and that covers everything from a state’s ability to detect new outbreaks, for example, monitoring disease trends, being able to test things in laboratories, and then the kinds of activities that are necessary for planning in order to respond to all kinds of disasters, be they hurricanes or a bad flu outbreak,” said Kuehnert.

Where does this leave New Jersey? The state scored points for national health security preparedness, having an accredited public health department, for our antibiotic stewardship program and because the state met standards for vaccination rates last flu season.

The state lost points for not increasing the funding for public health or having a paid sick leave law, among other things.

“The reason that’s important is if you think about when your co-workers are sick with the flu, if they don’t have the ability to take off and be paid for it, they’re going to keep coming into work and spreading the flu and that can be a bad situation for spreading all kinds of diseases,” said Kuehnert. “If we look at national comparisons, New Jersey’s funding level is about $26 per person compared to a national average of $36 per person. And the reason that’s important is again it gives the state the ability to detect and respond to and actually prevent some of the threats that can harm our population.”

Among the recommendations in the report is a note to prioritize what they call “one of the most serious threats to human health” — stopping super bugs and antibiotic resistance.