Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) are pleased to share with you a new report, Outbreaks: Protecting Americans from Infectious Diseases 2014. The report finds the Ebola outbreak exposes serious underlying gaps in the nation’s ability to manage severe infectious disease threats.
Over the last decade, we have seen dramatic improvements in state and local capacity to respond to outbreaks and emergencies. But we also saw during the recent Ebola outbreak that some of the most basic infectious disease controls failed when tested. Some key findings from the report include progress and gaps in the areas of:
Preparing for Emerging Threats: Significant advances have been made in preparing for public health emergencies since the September 11, 2001 and subsequent anthrax attacks, but gaps remain and have been exacerbated as resources have been cut over time.
Vaccinations: More than 2 million preschoolers, 35 percent of seniors and a majority of adults do not receive all recommended vaccinations.
Healthcare-Associated Infections: While healthcare-associated infections have declined in recent years due to stronger prevention policies, around one out of every 25 people who are hospitalized each year still contracts a healthcare-associated infection.
Sexually Transmitted Infections and Related Disease Treatment and Prevention: The number of new HIV infections grew by 22 percent among young gay men, and 48 percent among young Black men (between 2008 and 2010); more than one-third of gonorrhea cases are now antibiotic-resistant; and nearly three million Baby Boomers are infected with hepatitis C, the majority of whom do not know they have it.
Food Safety: Around 48 million Americans suffer from a foodborne illness each year.
The Outbreaks report recommends that it is time to rethink and modernize the health system to better match existing and emerging global disease threats. Priority improvements should include:
Core Abilities: Every state should be able to meet a set of core capabilities and there must be sufficient, sustained funding to support these capabilities. Some basic capabilities include: investigative expertise, including surveillance systems that can identify and track threats and communicate across the health system and strong laboratory capacity; containment strategies, including vaccines and medicines; continued training and testing for hospitals and health departments for infection control and emergency preparedness; risk communications capabilities that inform the public without creating unnecessary fear; and maintaining a strong research capacity to develop new vaccines and medical treatments.
Healthcare and Public Health Integration: Systems must be improved so the healthcare system, hospitals and public health agencies work better together toward the common goals of protecting patients, healthcare workers and the public; and
Leadership and Accountability: Stronger leadership is needed for a government-wide approach to health threats at the federal, state and local levels, and there must be increased support for integration and flexibility of programs in exchange for demonstration of capabilities and accountability.
The full report and state-by-state materials are available on TFAH’s website at www.healthyamericans.org and on RWJF’s website at www.rwjf.org. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a briefing on the report, please contact TFAH’s Senior Government Relations Manager, Dara Lieberman, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-864-5942.