STAR-BULLETIN / SEPTEMBER 2007
A Washington, D.C., group recently commended Hawaii for maintaining or exceeding its seasonal flu vaccination rate. Here, Dinah Yanza gives a flu shot to Bill Akers at the Senior Fair at Blaisdell Center.
Isles ace health preparedness survey
Miscommunication is blamed for narrowly missing a perfect score on the report
Hawaii's health emergency preparedness efforts rank among the best in the nation with a score of 9 out of 10 in a survey by the Trust for America's Health, a Washington, D.C.-based research group.
It would have scored 10 out of 10 if communications had not slipped up between the state and those conducting the study.
"Hawaii did very well on a range of indicators, everything from having good laboratory capacity to rapidly identify potential pathogens to having purchased a stockpile of antiviral medication to deal with pandemic influenza," Jeff Levi, executive director of the group, said today by telephone.
But he said Hawaii did not provide the surveyors with a passing score from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the state's plans to distribute emergency medical supplies from a national stockpile.
"We don't know who the Trust called," said state Health Director Chiyome Fukino. "We would have been happy to give it to them."
"Basically, we didn't hear from them," said Bart Aronoff, manager of the state bioterrorism program. He said Hawaii received a score of 78 from CDC in its readiness assessment. The criteria for the Trust report was either a score of green or a numerical score greater than 60, he said. "Last year we were green, and we didn't get credit for it because of the way they survey."
CDC scoring for the strategic national stockpile previously was done with red, yellow or green designations, with green being the best. Hawaii was one of two red states before Fukino took office, Aronoff said. "She has been enormously supportive of the program, and Hawaii is now in the top tier."
In the past two years it scored green, he said.
Hawaii was one of 16 states receiving scores of 9 out of 10 in the new report, "Ready or Not? Protecting the Public's Health from Disease, Disasters and Bioterrorism."
Seven states achieved scores for all 10 indicators.
"We are continuing to make progress in emergency preparedness since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but we can still do more," Fukino said. She also emphasized that "the local citizenry has to be prepared to the greatest extent possible to be self-sustaining for as long as they can. Any system can be overwhelmed if the demands are too high."
This is the fifth year the Trust for America's Health has done the study, Levi said. "These are the highest scores, and we think it's a sign the federal investment and preparedness is paying off and states and localities are trying to do a very good job with money they have received.
"Our biggest concern is that federal funding for preparedness has been going down over the last several years. We're worried that next year at this time we will see lower scores because states are not able to maintain their capacity."
Hawaii has lost disaster preparedness money because of decreased CDC funding and shifting of bioterrorism funds to the Department of Homeland Security, which gives money to local public health entities instead of state agencies, Fukino said.
The nine categories Hawaii passed included:
» Purchased part of its share of federally subsidized or unsubsidized antiviral medication.
» Has sufficient capabilities to test for biological threats.
» Has laboratory capability to provide 24/7 coverage to analyze samples.
» Has a disease tracking system to collect and monitor data electronically via the Internet.
» Has laws addressing one or both of two critical legal elements to extend liability protection to health care volunteers.
» Held an emergency preparedness exercise this year with health department officials and the state National Guard.
» Met or exceeded 14 Medical Reserve Corps volunteers per every 100,000 citizens.
» Increased or maintained seasonal flu vaccination rate for adults over age 65.
» Increased or maintained level of funding for public health services from fiscal year 2005-06 to fiscal year 2006-07.