A national health organization says Louisiana is better prepared for a health emergency than ever before. In its fifth annual report, “Trust for America’s Health” gives Louisiana an eight out of 10 overall for emergency preparedness. This is a significant improvement from last year’s score when the state only achieved six out of 10 standards for emergency readiness.

Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Dr. Roxane Townsend said the state has worked hard to be ready for any emergency. “We’ve made great strides since hurricanes Katrina and Rita which severely impacted not only our health care system, but our ability to effectively respond to an emergency.”

The “Ready or Not?” report contains state-by-state health preparedness scores based on 10 key indicators to measure health emergency preparedness capabilities. All 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia were evaluated. Only 22 states scored higher than Louisiana. Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia scored the highest with 10 out of 10. Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi, Nevada, Wisconsin and Wyoming scored the lowest with six out of 10.

1. Mass Distribution – Strategic National Stockpile: Does the state have an adequate plan to distribute emergency vaccines, antidotes, and medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile?

2. Mass Distribution – Antiviral Stockpiling: Did the state purchase a portion of its share of federally subsidized or unsubsidized antiviral drugs to stockpile for use during an influenza pandemic?

3. Public Health Laboratories – Bio-Threat Testing: Does the state lab director have sufficient laboratory capabilities to test for biological threats?

4. Public Health Laboratories – Workforce Surge Preparedness: If needed in an emergency, does the state public health laboratory have the capability to provide 24/7 coverage to analyze samples?

5. Bio-surveillance: Does the state use a disease surveillance system that is compatible with federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s system; including integrating electronic data from multiple sources?

6. Health Care Volunteer 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. Emergency Preparedness Drills: Does the state health department engage the state National Guard in public health emergency preparedness drills or training exercises?

8. Community Resiliency: Does the state meet a minimum threshold of Medical Reserve Corps volunteers per 100,000 persons?

9. Public Health Progress – Seasonal Flu Vaccination for Seniors: Did the state increase its rates for immunizing adults aged 65 and older for the seasonal flu?

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

The report recognized Louisiana’s efforts in eight of the 10 indicators. The only standards Louisiana has yet to achieve are sufficient public health laboratory capacity (the lab was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina) and an adequate number of medical volunteers.

The report did not factor in the state’s new effort to sign-up volunteers. This initiative includes a medical recruitment Web site that will be a key component of the State’s effort to recruit, manage and deploy volunteers for health emergencies.

“We feel Louisiana is well-positioned to move up higher in these ranking next year due to our on-going effort to identify, recruit and train a seasoned pool of medical volunteers,” said Townsend.