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May 8, 2019

Report: CT is more prepared for health emergencies

Connecticut’s ability to respond to infectious outbreaks, terrorist attacks, severe weather and other health emergencies continued to improve last year, and remains above the national average, according to the latest 50-state assessment from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Connecticut scored 6.9 points out of 10 on the 2018 National Health Security Preparedness Index, an annual report the foundation has been funding since 2013. That beat the latest national average of 6.7 points.

The state’s index score is up from 6.8 in 2017 and 6.4 in 2013. Eight states outranked Connecticut in the latest report, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Built into the scoring methodology is a set of 129 different data points that cover a wide range of topics --  laboratory testing, environmental and communications capabilities and infrastructure;

hospital services and performance metrics; and the prevalence of key personnel like Medical Reserve Corps members, emergency coordinators, doctors and registered nurses.

Glen Mays, who leads a team of University of Kentucky researchers that produces the report, said in a phone interview that the metrics are selected based on research and expert opinions about resources and capabilities that matter most in reducing the incidence of disease and injury from health emergencies.

Mays said his team’s data suggest that states with higher index scores tend to incur less economic damage from health emergencies.

Connecticut was at or above average in most major categories assessed by Mays’ team, but there were some weaknesses too.

One includes “health security surveillance.”

“This is basically the only domain where you’re significantly below the national average in the  last several years,” Mays said.

The lack of an electronic syndromic surveillance system at the state health department is one weakness, while another is a lack of an information management system at the state health laboratory to receive and report lab results electronically, he said.

“Having fewer testing capabilities in the lab, you’re more at risk to detect problems than you otherwise would be,” he said.

That means the state’s ability to detect food disease outbreaks, problems with the water supply, or air contaminants may be slower than in other states, he said.

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