Bioterrorism Preparedness Varies Throughout State, Study Finds
Preparedness for bioterrorist attacks or large-scale disease outbreaks varies widely among counties, reflecting budget cuts in local jurisdictions that maintain most of the oversight over public health preparedness, according to a study released Wednesday by RAND Health, the Sacramento Bee reports. The study -- which was requested by the Little Hoover Commission and funded by the California Endowment -- examined bioterror preparations in the city of Berkeley and Del Norte, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside and Sacramento counties. Researchers found that funding reductions had "gutted some programs" and that the jurisdictions lacked statewide oversight, resulting in "poor coordination among jurisdictions ... and duplication of some jobs that could be shared," the Bee reports. The shortage of resources that counties can spend on basic public health protection have caused some communities to eliminate a number of programs, including some that track residents who have come in contact with people who have sexually transmitted diseases. Study author Nicole Lurie said many communities have disregarded some health preparedness issues in favor of those that can be funded through grants, such as immunization or diabetes prevention.
The study recommended the creation of a high-level commission or statewide study group to examine the issue and consider changes to the system. "There is a lot of unevenness here," Lurie said, adding, "There are places in the state where we think people are poorly prepared and protected, and we are really worried about the unintended consequences." Dr. Glennah Trochet, Sacramento County health officer, said the structure of the current California public health system was less of an obstacle to preparedness efforts than funding reductions, the Bee reports. "It will take sustained, committed funding to rebuild the infrastructure -- not just in bioterrorism -- but in all areas of public health," Trochet said (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 6/2). An abstract of the study is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.