How Ready is NJ for Bioterrorism or the Next Natural Disaster?
Is New Jersey ready to take on an unexpected public health emergency? According to an annual report, the Garden State is better off now than it has been in a while.
In the Trust for America's Health report "Ready or Not? Protecting the Public from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism," New Jersey scored higher than 41 other states, plus the District of Columbia.
The report, as always, based its scoring on 10 key indicators of public health preparedness that vary from year to year based on the most pressing matters and advice from health professionals.
New Jersey met the mark on all but two of those indicators.
While the report uncovers states that have decreased their funding for public health over the past couple years, New Jersey was found to have increased or maintained that funding over the same time period.
The state also received points in the categories of food safety, emergency healthcare access and reducing healthcare-associated infections.
But the Garden State fell short of the report's recommendation that half the population (6 months and older) be vaccinated for the seasonal flu during the 2015-2016 season.
New Jersey came in at 45.4 percent — not far from the goal. Just 10 states met the indicator's recommendation.
Dawn Thomas, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health said the agency is committed to ensuring residents are fully vaccinated. In 2008, New Jersey became the first state to require flu vaccines for child care/preschool attendance.
"The department is proud of our improvement in this year's Trust for America's Health report," Thomas said. "Only three other states were ranked higher than New Jersey."
New Jersey scored a 6-out-of-10 in the December 2015 report, a 3-out-of-10 one year prior, and a 2-out-of-10 in 2013.
New Jersey also missed the mark in the latest report's category of climate change readiness, due to its D+ grade in Climate Central's report card on preparedness. Thirty-two states, plus D.C., received a C grade or higher.
"Short of picking up New Jersey and plopping it down next to Ohio, we have been doing everything we can to protect lives, property and ecosystems, probably more than any other state on the East Coast," said state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Hajna, responding to the report. "Are we done? No, of course not. But an extremely sound foundation is being built to adapt to climate change."