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Public Health Report Card: How Does Your State Measure Up?

It’s easy to understand why people take public health for granted.  You simply can’t see the diseases that have been prevented, the hospitalizations that have been avoided or the lives that have been saved.  And in these challenging economic times, when state and federal budgets are being scrutinized, it’s important that we keep focused on our collective public health needs and responsibilities.

Unfortunately, according to a new report from Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation  many states just don’t measure up the way we might expect them to.  In this report each state was graded in ten areas related to funding, vaccination rates and public health department readiness and quality.   Some of the specific factors that each state was judged on include vaccinating for diseases like flu, measles, HPV, and whooping cough; controlling hospital-acquired infections; screening people for HIV; preparing for climate change and disease outbreaks; and adequately funding their public health departments. States scored one point for each measure they met for a maximum of 10 points.

MapOfStatePublicHealthScoresSadly, thirty-four states scored 5 points or less in this report.  Three states – Georgia, Nebraska and New Jersey – tied for the lowest score of 2.  And the only state to achieve the highest score of 8 out of 10 was New Hampshire.

If you are preparing to travel over the upcoming holidays, you may be interested in knowing how the different states measure up.  For a detailed breakdown by state, you can refer to the full report here.  You can also read more about some other key findings from the report including the following:

  • One-third of states do not require health care facilities to report health care-associated infections.
  • Only 12 states had vaccinated at least half of their population (ages 6 months and older) for the seasonal flu in 2012.
  • Only two states (Connecticut and Delaware), along with Washington, D.C., meet the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) goal of vaccinating 90% of young children (ages 19-35 months old) against whooping cough.
  • About one in five people with HIV don’t know they have it, yet a third of states don’t cover HIV screening tests under their Medicaid programs.
  • Fewer than half of states require human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations, education for parents about the vaccine, or funding for vaccinations.

And one of the most concerning details covered in this report is the undeniable fact that public health funding continues to suffer from budget cuts.  In fact, a total of 34 states lost  public health funding in fiscal year 2012-2013 as compared to the year prior.  These cuts only diminish the capacity of each state to respond to infectious disease outbreaks and to improve their overall score.  And on a federal level the CDC also experienced a $577 million cut in the past year.

As the year draws to a close and we look to the promise of a better 2014, let us continue to support public health efforts both across the nation and around the world.   We appreciate everyone who has made personal contributions to organizations like Every Child By Two.  Whether it’s been through monetary contributions, writing letters to editors and producers encouraging accurate representation of vaccine safety and benefits, or simply sharing content from Shot of Prevention or the Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page, we thank you!

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