CHICAGO (AP) – Illinois fares worse than most states when it comes to preparing for disease outbreaks, bioterrorism and other disasters, a report released Tuesday said.
In an annual preparedness ranking, Illinois and eight other states got six out of 10 possible points. Most did better; only two did worse in the report from the Trust for America’s Health, a non-profit, non-partisan health advocacy group based in Washington.
States got points for increasing or maintaining public health services funding last year. Illinois was among 33 that decreased funding. But Illinois’ decrease, 2.6 percent, was smaller than most.
Jeff Levi, the advocacy group’s executive director, said the struggling economy is taking a toll on emergency health preparedness, despite high overall scores in this year’s report.
“Unfortunately, the recent and continued budget cuts will exacerbate the vulnerable areas in U.S. crisis response capabilities and have the potential to reverse the progress we have made over the last decade,” Levi said.
In the group’s eighth annual report, states achieved the highest scores ever for health emergency preparedness, with 14 scoring nine or higher.
Illinois was among 47 states with enough public health staff to handle a long-term response to an infectious disease outbreak, such as swine flu, the report said.
And Illinois scored well on food safety, joining 29 states able to rapidly identify disease-causing E. coli bacteria and submit timely lab results.
But Illinois was also among 25 states without a requirement for licensed child-care centers to have a written multi- hazard evacuation plan and lacking electronic surveillance for monitoring and sharing outbreak data.
According to Kendall Marlowe of Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services, Illinois’ current licensing regulations for day care centers “require posted evacuation floor plans in every room, as well as monthly fire drills and biannual tornado drills.”
“Centers are further required to keep records of all required drills. DCFS also regularly examines our regulations to look for ways to improve child safety in day care centers,” Marlowe said in an e-mail.
Illinois lost points for lacking a certain type of electronic surveillance for monitoring and sharing outbreak data. Tom Green, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Health, said Illinois relies on a different model, the Illinois National Electronic Disease system, which communicates directly with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and provides two-way reporting.
Illinois also lost points on a chemical terrorism preparedness measure. Green blamed a lack of funding but said Illinois is equipped to send samples to the CDC and a regional terrorism lab in Michigan. And, Green argued, symptoms are often the best way to determine what kind of chemical might have been used in a bioterrorist attack.
Patti Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, noted Illinois recently received reaccreditation from the Emergency Management Accreditation Program. Illinois demonstrated 100 percent compliance with that program’s voluntary standards, which include emergency planning, Thompson said.
Online:Trust for America’s Health: http://www.tfah.org
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