A national health organization says Louisiana is better prepared now more than ever for a hurricane, bioterrorism, or any other health emergency. In its sixth annual report, “Trust for America’s Health” gives Louisiana a perfect score of 10 out of 10 for health emergency preparedness. This is a significant improvement over the past two years: Louisiana received an eight out of 10 last year and a six out of 10 in 2006 for emergency readiness.

Louisiana Department of Health (DHH) Secretary Alan Levine says the report reaffirms what he saw in action during Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. “Thanks to the hard work of our governor, our staff at LDH and other state agencies, and all of our partners, Louisiana is extremely well prepared to respond to a health crisis. We prove that each year during hurricane season,” Levine said.

LDH Office of Public Health – Center for Community Preparedness Director Doris G. Brown, RN, MEd, MS, CNS, said the perfect score is a direct reflection of the hard work of the state and its partners through the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Cooperative Agreement between the Office of Public Health, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Hospital Preparedness Program. “We plan and train with our partners so that when we are faced with a man-made or natural disaster we are ready,” Brown said.

The “Ready or Not?” report contains public health preparedness scores of each state and the District of Columbia based on 10 key indicators to measure emergency preparedness capabilities. Louisiana is one of only five states to attain a perfect score in this year’s evaluation.

The 10 key preparedness indicators:

1. Mass Distribution – Strategic National Stockpile: Did the state test its plan to distribute emergency vaccines, antidotes, pharmaceuticals, and medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile, and receive a passing grade from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?

2. Mass Distribution – Antiviral Stockpiling: Did the state purchase 50 percent or more of its federally-subsidized antiviral drugs to stockpile for use during an influenza pandemic?

3. Public Health Laboratories –Lab Pickup and Delivery: Does the state public health lab currently have an intra-state courier system (non-mail) that operates 24 hours per day for specimen pickup?

4. Public Health Laboratories – Pandemic Influenza Planning: Does the state public health laboratory meet the expectations of the state’s pandemic influenza plan?

5. Biosurveillance: Does the state use a disease surveillance system that is compatible with federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national system, including integrating data from multiple sources, using electronic lab results (ELR) reporting, and using an Internet Browser?

6. Health Care Volunteer Emergency Liability Protection: Does the state have laws that reduce or limit the liability exposure for health care volunteers who serve in a public health emergency?

7. Entity Emergency Liability Protection: Does the state have laws that reduce or limit the liability for businesses and non-profit organizations that serve in a public health emergency?

8. Medical Reserve Corps Readiness: Does the state have a Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Coordinator?

9. Food Safety—Detection and Diagnosis: Did the state identify the pathogen responsible for reported food borne disease outbreaks at a rate that met or exceeded the national average of 44 percent (combined data 2004-2006)?

10. Funding Commitment: Did the state maintain or increase funding for public health programs during 2006 and 2007?

Five of the standards are new in this year’s evaluation, including: Public Health Laboratories-Lab Pickup and Delivery, Public Health Laboratories-Pandemic Influenza Planning, Entity Emergency Liability Protection, Medical Reserve Corps Readiness, and Food Safety-Detection and Diagnosis.

Louisiana’s health emergency efforts were recognized in all 10 areas.

Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation worked together in evaluating the states and producing the report. Trust for America’s Health is a government watchdog group, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans.

To view the full report, visit http://healthyamericans.org/reports/bioterror08/

The Office of Public Health is a unit of DHH. The Louisiana Department of Health serves to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens.