Is Emergency Preparedness Your Problem?
Nobody was happy about how the government and Red Cross handled Katrina. But it wasn't until I heard Newt Gingrich speak at the Council on Foundation's annual conference in Pittsburgh last May, that it occurred to me that philanthropists should even consider being the ones who do something about it.
Philanthropy raises the question again through a new report entitled, "Ready or Not?" from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which ranks readiness to deal with bioterrorism, bird flu, and other health disasters on a state by state basis. Not surprisingly, it shows that "As a whole, Americans face unnecessary and unacceptable levels of risk.” Among the key findings:
* Only 15 states are rated at the highest preparedness level to provide emergency vaccines, antidotes, and medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile.
* Twenty-five states would run out of hospital beds within two weeks of a moderate pandemic flu outbreak.
* Forty states face a shortage of nurses.
* Rates for vaccinating seniors for the seasonal flu decreased in 13 states.
* Eleven states and D.C. lack sufficient capabilities to test for biological threats.
* Four states do not test year-round for the flu, which is necessary to monitor for a pandemic outbreak.
* Six states cut their public health budgets from fiscal year (FY) 2005 to 2006; the median rate for state public health spending is $31 per person per year.
Most donors will wait to donate food and clothing once the next big one hits. Yet, somewhere, there exists those rare birds (hopefully working with foundations like RWJ), who will tackle these policy issues in ways that minimize their impact.