Recently, the Robert Wood May Foundation released the latest version of its National Health Security Preparedness Index. The Index includes 129 measures grouped into six broad domains:

  • Health Security Surveillance
  • Community Planning and Engagement
  • Information and Incident Management
  • Healthcare Delivery
  • Countermeasure Management
  • Environmental and Occupational Health

Results from the release indicate that security preparedness continued to improve in 2018, but still remain far from optimal. The national index reached 6.7 out of 10 in 2018, representing a 3.1 percent improvement over the prior year, and a 11.7 percent improvement since 2013.

According to the report, if current trends continue, the average state will require six additional years to reach health security levels currently found in the best-prepared states, and at least ten more years to reach a strong health security level of at least 9.0 out of 10.

The following are select key findings from the report:

  • Consistent Gains. The United States posted a sixth consecutive year of gains in health security nationally, with the Index reaching its highest level of 6.7 out of 10 in 2018.
  • Modest Improvement. The national index increased by two percentage points in 2018 from the prior year (3.1%), and by seven percentage points since 2013 (11.7%).
  • Inequities in Protection. The nation’s health protections are not distributed evenly across the United States. A gap of 25 percent in index values exists between the highest and lowest states (states in the South Central, Upper Mountain West, Pacific Coast and Midwest regions experienced significantly lower health security levels and smaller gains in health security over time compared to their counterparts in other regions).
  • Largest Gains: Distribution of Supplies and Equipment. The largest one-year gain in health security occurred in the Countermeasure Management domain, which rose by 8.3 percent in 2018 to reach a national average of 6.5. According to the report, the activities measured in this domain focus on “distributing protective supplies and equipment to the people and places that experience hazardous events.” Health security has improved by 16.1 percent since 2013 in this domain.
  • A Downturn in Community Engagement. Performance in this domain declined moderately in 2018 to 5.2. Previously, this domain showed large gains in health security, increasing by 17.8% between 2013 and 2017 to reach a national average of 5.3.
  • Core Strength: Managing Acute Phases of Emergencies. Health security levels remained highest in the Incident and Information Management domain. Health security in this domain reached 8.7 in 2018, significantly higher than any other domain (1.2 percent higher than the previous year’s score).
  • Health Care Preparedness Lags Behind. Health security levels remained lowest in the Healthcare Delivery domain, which reflects the ability of health care professionals and facilities to maintain high-quality medical care during and after emergency events.

The index offered a number of recommended strategies for improving health security. In general, these recommendations centered on developing cross-functional relationships, creating multi-layered preparedness plans and compiling shared data sources. In short—effective management of complex relationships and resources to combat an ever-changing landscape of threats.

Improving health security is a worthwhile national goal. Though changes are slow to materialize, indexes such as this illustrate improvements are being made. Here’s encouragement to keep up the fight on a daily basis to continuously improve the planning and response practices in our industry.