A Decade After Katrina: Are We Better Prepared, and How Can We Know?

National Preparedness Month is upon us, and as we pass the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, policy and public attention turns to the question of whether we are better prepared today than in years past. Does the nation have the necessary capabilities to blunt the health and economic consequences of disasters, pandemics and other large-scale public health emergencies? Looking just at the money, we know that federal outlays for public health preparedness and response programs have been in steady decline since Katrina (see figure). And our best data sources suggest that state and local government expenditures dedicated to public health preparedness are negligible. So what does this mean for preparedness levels across the US?

A new tool for measuring the nation’s preparedness and health security capabilities has been in development over the past several years: the National Health Security Preparedness Index. An initial version of the Index was released in December 2013, and the second, current version was released a year later in December 2014. The Index is definitely a work in progress as the science and practice of preparedness continues to evolve, and particularly as we learn how to measure important preparedness constructs and capabilities such as those outlined in the National Health Security Strategy.

We recently conducted a series of validation and simulation studies with the current version of the Index, and based on these results we have released a series of recommended improvements to the Index methodology and measures. My video overview of these recommended changes can be viewed here:

The Index is currently inviting public comments regarding these proposed updates to the Index methodology and measures. You can access the report on Index recommended updates and the public comment form here. The public comment period extends throughout National Preparedness Month and ends on September 30, so let us hear from you.

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