Iowa ranks low in health emergency preparedness - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa ranks low in health emergency preparedness

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DES MOINES (KWWL) -- A report from a non-profit, non-partisan group is showing Iowa ranking among the worst in the nation in being prepared for a public health emergency.

The Trust for America's Health report shows Iowa receiving a score of five out of 10, the lowest among its neighboring states.

According to the report Iowa is just one of three states to be named as understaffed in the event of an infectious disease outbreak.

It says Iowa, Hawaii, and Montana were all deemed understaffed for a long-term outbreak.

The report refers to the University of Iowa Hygienic Lab and the fact that it wouldn't have enough staff to work five 12-hour days for six to eight weeks which would be needed in an outbreak.

"I think the people of Iowa should be confident that the laboratory is prepared to respond to a crisis. What we're pointing out is if it were to be for an extended period of time we would have to be looking for additional capacity to persevere in an extended outbreak," said the lab's Director, Chris Atchinson.

Among the areas where Iowa falls short are funding for public health services, requiring licensed child care facilities to have a multi-hazard evacuation plan and having an adequate work force to respond to a disease outbreak.

Jeff Levi, the group's director, says it's a reminder that more needs to be done and that progress made in the past decade is being threatened by federal and state budget cuts.

Officials with the lab say they have lost a number of good employees since Iowa's across the board budget cuts.

Online Reporter: John Wilmer

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