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States least prepared for an emergency: Kansas and Missouri, says study

Kansas and Missouri are the US states least prepared to deal with emergencies like Superstorm Sandy, bioterrorism or disease outbreaks.

Sandy home damageEnlarge
People view damage in a neighborhood in the Breezy Point area of Queens in New York on October 30, 2012 after fire destroyed about 80 homes as a result of Hurricane Sandy which hit the area October 29. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

Kansas and Missouri are the US states least prepared to deal with emergencies like Superstorm Sandy, bioterrorism or disease outbreaks, according to a study of public health preparedness released today, Reuters reported.

Researchers for the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that budget cuts have sapped the ability of these and other states’ hospitals, health departments and other officials to prevent and respond to disasters, according to Reuters.

“Kansas (funding for public health programs) went down by 6 percent, which is at least the third year in a row that we’ve seen the cuts," Rich Hamburg of the Trust for America's Health told Kansas City Public Media.

The state health lab does not employ enough people to handle an infectious disease outbreak if it lingers for six to eight weeks, and not enough Kansas children are vaccinated against whooping cough, researchers found, according to Kansas City Public Media.

While Kansas and Missouri are the worst off, the study found few states are adequately prepared for disasters, Reuters reported. Only Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Vermont and Wisconsin met eight of the 10 measures of preparedness the researchers looked at.

The benchmarks included having written evacuation plans for K-12 students, vaccinating 90 percent of toddlers against whooping cough and the speed at which states can notify public health workers that there is a disaster, USA Today reported.

Only two states (Hawaii and Nebraska) met the vaccination goal, USA Today reported. In three states (Hawaii, Connecticut and New York), it took longer than an hour to notify public health workers.

"Investments made after Sept. 11, the anthrax attacks and Hurricane Katrina led to dramatic improvements, but now budget cuts and complacency are our biggest threats,'' Jeffrey Levi, the executive director of the Trust for America's Health, said, according to USA Today. "Since then, there have been a series of significant health emergencies, but we haven't learned that we need to bolster and maintain a consistent level of health emergency preparedness."

More from GlobalPost: CDC report: Imported fish, spices biggest culprits in disease outbreaks

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/121219/states-least-prepared-emergency-kansas-missouri