A new study released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found Louisiana is the least prepared of all U.S. states to respond in case of a major national health emergency.
The report, known as the National Health Security Preparedness Index, has ranked states by their ability to respond to emergencies quickly and effectively since it was first released in 2013, according to industry magazine Emergency Management. For the 2016 report, the study found that Louisiana and a cluster of other states, mostly in the South, have not improved as quickly as the rest of the nation, and that emergency preparedness in Louisiana has actually deteriorated since the previous year.
The main weakness for Louisiana is in health care delivery. On a 10-point scale, the state scored 3.1 compared to a national average of 5.1. Health care delivery is evaluated based on several factors, including the number of available physicians, hospital beds and nursing home staff; the availability of mental and behavioral health services; and the distance people have to travel to get to trauma and burn centers within the state.
"There are clusters of states that are better or less prepared than others," Glen Mays, who directs the foundation’s Systems for Action Research Program, told The Times-Picayune. "It shows us that health care protections are not evenly distributed across the U.S., and tells us where we need to focus our efforts."
Despite issues with health care delivery, Louisiana improved in areas such as incident information and management, which the state uses to create protocols to respond to future emergencies.
“It’s not all a bad picture here, for Louisiana in particular. There are places where the state has made important gains in preparedness that can be very reassuring to Louisiana residents,” Mays said. “And it shows that it’s possible to make gains.”