2008 Trust for America’s Health Report Ranks Vermont Among Nation’s Best in Public Health Preparedness
For Immediate Release: Dec. 9, 2008
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
BURLINGTON – Vermont achieved a score of 9 out of 10 for the second year in a row in the Trust for America’s Health “Ready or Not? Protecting the Public’s Health from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism” report.
Vermont was one of only 12 states to receive a score of 9 or above for public health preparedness in the 2008 report. Only five states, including neighboring New Hampshire, scored a 10 out of 10.
Ten key public health preparedness indicators were measured including the capacity for a state’s public health laboratory to test for biological threats, use of an electronic surveillance system compatible with national standards, and having in place laws that extend liability shields to healthcare volunteers in a public health emergency.
“Vermont recognizes that preparedness efforts, especially in a small, rural state, require a sustained partnership at the state and local levels, and this extensive collaboration has served us well,” said Health Commissioner Wendy Davis, MD. “Vermont’s approach has always been that emergency preparedness is an evolving process, and while the report is encouraging it also highlights challenges we will face going forward.”
An effective response to any emergency, Dr. Davis said, will involve multiple state agencies and the entire health care community both in the public and private sectors. Key planning and response partners include the Vermont Department of Public Safety, Vermont Emergency Management, Vermont State Police, the Vermont National Guard, Vermont 211, the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, hospitals statewide and other state and local organizations.
The report cited significant gaps nationwide, such as the ability of hospitals to handle a surge of patients in the event of a moderate or severe pandemic flu. Vermont public health, emergency management and hospital officials have worked cooperatively to increase the number of available hospital beds by 30 percent (statewide) during a major event. Hospitals also adopted an electronic bed monitoring system that allows them to know, and share information about, where beds are available.
The one area for which Vermont did not receive a check mark was: “State has a Medical Reserve Corps Coordinator.” Vermont does have a regional Medical Reserve Corps coordinator based in Bennington who maintains a list of more than 200 specialized healthcare volunteers.
The full TFAH report, with state rankings is available at: www.healthyamericans.org.
For information on emergency preparedness from the Vermont Department of Health, go to: http://www.healthvermont.gov/e_ready.aspx.