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Report ranks Montana last in public health preparedness

By Katherine Mozzone, KTVM Reporter, kmozzone@ktvm.com
Published On: Jan 30 2013 01:14:22 PM MST
Updated On: Jan 04 2013 08:34:24 PM MST
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Is Montana ready when it comes to public health emergencies?  A new report funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says no.
 
The report, titled 'Ready or not? Protecting the public from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrism,' ranks Montana last, tied with Kansas, scoring only three out of ten indicators of public health preparedness.

The report indicates the US has made a number of improvements as a whole but it still has a ways to go.  35 states and Washington, D.C. scored a six or lower.
     
The report evaluates states on indicators of public health preparedness, like whether a state increased or maintained their level of funding for public health services or whether 90 percent of 19- to 35-month-olds were vaccinated for whooping cough.  Those are also two indicators Montana did not pass.
     
Montana also lacks other indicators, including a complete climate change adaption plan and a Nurse Licensure Compact, which allows nurses to practice in other states that have the compact.
     
We asked Bozeman folks to see what they think about Montana falling in last place.
     
"I am actually really surprised because I'm a Montana resident so, I'm proud of where I am but surprised to hear we're lacking in that so, I'd like to be better," says Belit Pigman.

Montana did meet three indicators in the report, including notifying and assembling public health staff to ensure quick response to an incident.

We went to the Gallatin City-County Health Department to find out more.
     
Health officers told us those indicators are evaluated on a state-wide basis so, we asked about public health preparedness in Gallatin County.
     
They tell us they work with the county response team, comprised of the hospital and first responders.  They say they also participate in regular training exercises that equate to dress rehearsals.
     
Public health officials say when whooping cough hit Bozeman High School, officials immediately began coordinating with other schools and the hospital.

"We implemented emergency preparedness planning and emergency preparedness systems in order to be able to impact that outbreak and make sure that we were serving the community and limiting the number of people who were exposed and contracted the disease," says Gallatin City-County Health Officer Matt Kelley.

Kelley says he has no complaints about the funding Gallatin County has received for emergency preparedness but says any cuts in federal funding would have a negative impact

The report does provide suggestions on how the United States can improve when it comes to public health preparedness, including providing ongoing support to communities so they better cope and recover from emergencies and seriously address antibiotic resistance.