By Alyson Jordan, Communications Specialist, NACCHO
On Dec. 4, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and 20 other development partners including NACCHO, announced the release of the new National Health Security Preparedness Index (NHSPI). The NHSPI examines the health security preparedness of the nation by looking collectively at data collected from states, and helps guide efforts to achieve a higher level of health security preparedness. It also lists individual state scores and highlights where gaps exist so that states can drive improvements and increase accountability in their preparedness efforts. While the Index scores are measured at a state level, local health departments can use the data to drive local change and discuss with state and federal partners how their preparedness efforts have influenced the Index.
The NHSPI examines measures primarily in the public health and healthcare systems, and rates preparedness factors on a zero to ten scale that is easy to comprehend. The Index is broken down into five domains (Health Surveillance; Community Planning and Engagement; Incident and Information Management; Surge Management; and Countermeasure Management), 14 sub-domains, and 128 total measures. These measures should not be viewed as a checklist for preparedness; rather, the measures should be examined as a group and assessed on how they work together to foster preparedness.
Viewers of the NHSPI can see the results at both the national and state levels, selecting to view high-level snapshots, comparing their state results relative to national averages, or reviewing the full report to see measure-level details. While there is variance among the states’ scores, overall results only vary moderately. This demonstrates that every state is working hard on preparedness but still has the opportunity to make progress.
Nationally, the NHSPI highlights where the U.S. stands on its overall health security and offers insight into how the nation will approach preparedness directives moving forward. Overall, the nation scored a 7.2 on the 2013 Index, indicating that while substantial health security preparedness capabilities exist, additional progress can still be made toward national health security. The NHSPI is aligned with other national measures of preparedness, including Presidential Policy Directive–8 and the National Health Security Strategy. NHSPI leaders anticipate that the Index will grow to be even more closely aligned with national preparedness directives in the following years.
Development on the NHSPI began in January 2012 with input from multiple stakeholders, including several of NACCHO’s members. While the NHSPI offers preparedness measures at the state level, local health departments can use the new Index to engage in a dialogue about their role in influencing their state’s score. In fact, Dr. Cathy Slemp, Former State Health Officer and Preparedness Director from West Virginia, stated that “the strength of the tool is in the dialogue it fosters.” Local health departments are encouraged to discuss what this new Index means for them and how their local preparedness efforts have contributed to the statewide score. States are can review the results of the Index to understand the varying threats they face and to prioritize preparedness principles locally.
Likewise, local health departments play an important role in influencing their state’s readiness in all five major domains of the NHSPI. Many of these critical measures cannot be created just-in-time (such as community relationships and access to broadband internet), and require a local investment to build and sustain this infrastructure over time. An understanding of local resources is also critical to improving response and recovery. Jim Craig, Preparedness Director at the Mississippi Department of Health, noted that Mississippi’s response to incidents such as Hurricane Katrina and other disease outbreaks was strengthened because of efforts to coordinate state and local resources prior to these events.
The NHSPI reminds everyone that the responsibility for preparedness lies with the whole community, including all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, and community residents. Further discussion among all sectors of the community is necessary to advance our national preparedness.
To learn more about the NHSPI and the preparedness strengths and opportunities for growth in your state, visit www.nhspi.org.