Public health threats are always present. They include natural disasters; biological, chemical, and radiological incidents; and explosions. The impact of these threats can range from local outbreaks to incidents with national or global ramifications.  Last year’s  influenza pandemic underscored the importance of communities being prepared for potential threats. Being prepared to prevent, respond to, and rapidly recover from public health threats can protect the health and safety of the public and emergency responders.

The federal government has made large investments in public health readiness over the last 10 years.  Accountability means everything these days- and the CDC continually evaluates states’ performance. In addition, every other year the CDC publishes a comprehensive report that evaluates each state’s performance.  This year’s report was entitled Public Health Preparedness: Strengthening the Nation’s Emergency Response State by State. The report evaluates each state on a broad range of preparedness and response activities and they use the results to drive program improvements, improve performance and to increase accountability for the nation’s investment in public health preparedness.

Examples of criteria that are evaluated include: 1) Biological laboratory capabilities and capacities; 2) Chemical laboratory proficiency; 3) Disease reporting including 24/7 intervention response; 4) Rapid methods to communicate with other laboratories and the healthcare community for outbreaks, routine updates, and other needs; 5) Demonstrated ability to receive, distribute, and dispense medical assets from CDC’s Strategic National Stockpile and other sources; and 6) Demonstrated the ability to activate and rapidly staff their emergency operations centers for drills, exercises, or real incidents, and developed after action reports and improvement plans following these activities.

I’m proud to announce that Arizona’s public health system did fantastic on this year’s report- hitting the mark on 32 of the 33 indicators- a solid “A” in anybody’s book.  Congratulations Preparedness team.  Keep up the good work.