Iowa has scored on par with the nation when it comes to preparation for health emergencies such as disease outbreaks and natural disasters, according to the sixth annual National Health Security Preparedness Index.
The index, which was started in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control, ranks states on how prepared they are for managing health emergencies in six categories. Iowa scored 6.8 overall on the 10 point scale, slightly above the national average of 6.7.
Researchers at the University of Kentucky analyzed 129 different measures to compile the score, including factors like a state’s ability to detect health hazards in the environment, the strength of its healthcare systems and the extent of communication and coordination between different agencies and organization, said Glen Mays, the University of Kentucky professor who lead the team.
Mays said Iowa excelled in the “environmental and occupational health” category, which measures how prepared the state is to detect and respond to problems and hazards in the environment. The state scored 6.9, a point above the national average of 5.9.
“We know with climate change and more extreme weather events that’s an especially important area, and Iowa’s really leading the nation in that regard. That’s great to see,” Mays said. “The rest of the country can learn from Iowa in terms of how to strengthen those elements of health security.”
But Iowa lags behind the country when it came to developing and supporting relationships between government agencies, community organizations and households. In the “community planning and engagement” category, the state scored a 4.3 compared to the national average of 5.2.
Mays said one of the reasons for this is because the state has fewer volunteers.
“We also measure volunteers and the extent to which in particular health professionals are signed up as volunteers and agree to play a role in assisting with disasters in emergencies when they occur,” Mays said. “And the number of volunteers that are registered as part of medical reserve corps are lower in Iowa than compared to other states.”
Though the national average scores have been increasing about three percent annually, Mays said this still puts the nation about a decade away from reaching the “optimal goal” of 9 overall.