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New Report Calls On Utah To Improve Public Health Emergency Preparedness

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Preventative measures are typically best when it comes to maintaining your health, but often our abilities to stay healthy can be affected by medical costs, outdated services or even a sick co-worker. 

“In Utah, some of the areas that could be improved include the vaccination rate for seasonal influenza which is only at about 39 percent of the population that is recommended for such vaccines," said John Auerbach, president and CEO of Trust for America's Health. "That matters because it not only saves lives each year during flu season, but it’s the system that would be utilized in the event of a new epidemic that requires rapid distribution of a vaccine.” 

Auerbach said that most states have a laboratory capable of handling ‘surge capacity’, or the ability to accommodate patients in the event of a disease outbreak.

“Utah does not have a plan in place to guarantee that that surge capacity exists in an emergency,” Auerbach said.

And it’s not just the flu we’re talking about. Auerbach says there are a number of infectious diseases that we often risk exposing others and ourselves too when treatment or simply staying home could be the better option. (Hence that co-worker comment from before.)

“Without paid time off people come to work and that can be dangerous to the public. Utah has about 46 percent of its population that is covered by paid time off and that is significantly lower than most of the country,” Auerbach said.

He also said that the state should consider improving it’s preparedness plans but recognizes there are some real hurdles to this.  

“The amount of money that Utah received from the federal government for emergency preparedness has actually gone down significantly over the last several years. It’s about a third lower in terms of what it gives to the public health department and about 50 percent lower in what the federal government gives to hospitals to get ready for emergencies,” Auerbach said. 

The Trust for America’s Health report can be found here.