For Immediate Release
December 9, 2008

KDHE Office of Communications
communications@kdheks.gov, 785-296-0461

Kansas Scores 6 out of 10 in 2008 Public Health Preparedness Report

Kansas met six out of 10 criteria for public health emergency preparedness in a report released today by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The full report, titled “Ready or Not? Protecting the Public’s Health from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism,” can be found on the Web at http://healthyamericans.org.

“Kansas continues to make progress towards better protecting the public health in response to emergencies,” said KDHE Secretary Roderick L. Bremby. “Our approach is to support the response to a wide range of threats, including disease outbreaks, natural disasters, chemical emergencies and others.”

Some of the indicators that Kansas met included having sufficient plans to distribute emergency medical supplies, as well as employing someone to coordinate the recruitment of health professionals to respond to emergencies.

One of the report’s criteria recorded as not being met was whether the state public health laboratory can meet expectations of the state’s pandemic influenza plan.  However, health officials note that the state pandemic influenza plan was developed with the laboratory’s capabilities in mind, and that the laboratory has capabilities similar to labs in other states that met this criterion. 

The report suggests some other areas for improvement. One of these is that Kansas’ electronic disease tracking system is not fully compatible with the system used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because it does not yet include electronic laboratory reporting.  KDHE is working with vendors to fully integrate these systems, and expects this process to be complete by the end of December.

The report also noted that health investigators identify diseases associated with foodborne outbreaks less frequently than the national average.  Most reported foodborne illness outbreaks in Kansas involve only a small number of people, which often makes it difficult to confirm the specific cause of illness.  The symptoms of many different foodborne diseases are similar, and patients are often reluctant to submit samples for lab analysis.

The indicators used in the report change from year to year, which causes the scores that states receive to vary from year to year.  The 2008 report is the sixth of its kind to be released in as many years. Kansas met seven out of 10 indicators in 2007, nine out of 10 in 2006, five out of 10 in 2005, seven out of 10 in 2004, and three out of 10 in 2003.