Is Utah prepared for an outbreak? New study says, not likely.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Is Utah prepared for an outbreak?  According to a new report, no.  But the Utah Department of Health says they are more than ready to handle such an event and the data doesn’t represent trends happening here in Utah.
The report released by the Trust for America’s Health organization and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation pegged Utah towards the bottom half of all states prepared to handle an infectious disease outbreak.
“So, Utahn’s don’t need to be too worried about us being prepared.  The staff are well trained and public health labs are constantly receiving training,” says Jenny Johnson with the Utah Department of Health.
But, that doesn’t reflect in the data released by the report.  Utah received a 3 out of 10 score tying for last place with 6 other states including Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Oregon.
Each of the states were scored based off of 10 indicators; commitment to public health funding, flu vaccination rates, childhood immunization school requirement rates, HIV/AIDS surveillance, syringe exchange programs, climate change adaptations, central line-associated bloodstream infections, biosafety training in public health labs, and food safety.
Utah received good marks on public health funding, HIV/AIDS surveillance, and food safety.  But, the Utah Department of Health says Utah they have data that is more current to show Utah actually meets or is close to meeting the criteria for some of those indicators.
“Sometimes these reports don’t show the true trends or for example, some of the things that were measured in the report weren’t as big of an issue in our state as opposed to other states.  They can paint a bigger picture of what happens here in the state, and often the data is older than what we have,” says Johnson.
She goes on to clarify points where their data doesn’t reflect the report by saying, “One of the areas we’ve seen a decrease in is the hospital associated infections, our data shows that they’ve actually decreases so that’s one area…another area is with the flu vaccines…we’re really close to that 50% mark, we’re doing way better than how it looks in that report.”
Johnson does further explain that these reports are good to help the department evaluate their performance, training, and monitoring of diseases and say they were more surprised to learn Utah was marked down in categories they’ve seen improvements in.
The report marked Utah down in categories including biosafety training, central line infections, not having a plan for climate change adaptation, and syringe exchange programs.  But the department says Utah is improving and that the state is actually prepared to handle such a situation.
“Our department of health has active monitoring of these disease and we’re well aware of the problems that exist in our state, and making plans, and putting funding towards that.  What was shocking on areas where we got dinged on, we thought, ‘no, we’re actually meeting this, we’re actually doing well in this area,’ like I said, sometimes these reports you have to find a piece of data that all states have access to getting whether that’s a certain number of years or a type of survey each state does and we have additional data sources that we can look at to see what is actually happening in the state more accurately,” adds Johnson.
Nationwide 28 states received a score of 5 or lower.  The report issues a challenge to health officials across the county to continue their efforts to better protect Americans from infectious diseases, antibiotic resistant superbugs, and re-surging illnesses like whooping cough, gonorrhea, and tuberculosis.
“We want Utahns to know that the department of health and the public health system is committed to keeping them safe and we’re well trained and this is what we do. We’re here to eradicate diseases that are preventable and to help them access services to keep them healthy and keep their families healthy, and this report may not be a true indication of public health efforts that are succeeding in our state,” says Johnson.
The Utah Department of Health says this new data is accessible to the public and you can call them to access any bit of the data for your consumption.  You can also log on to to get the latest info and data on these categories here in Utah.
To view the full report just click here.

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