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Politics & Government

ND gets good marks for public health emergency preparedness

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A new national study shows North Dakota is at or near the national average – when it comes to being prepared for public health emergencies.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation did the survey, ranking states on a scale from zero to 10. North Dakota’s ranking is 6.5.

"North Dakota has seen improvements in its preparedness scores over time," said research team leader Dr. Glen Mays of the University of Kentucky. He says North Dakota has improved in its capability around health security surveillance.

"Generally, it has to do with the ability to detect potential health problems and threats in the population on a timely basis," Mays said. "This, using a wide variety of data sources, surveillance systems and medical records and health related data sources."

Mays also says North Dakota ranks high in incident management – and information management.

"That's the ability of the state to mobilize and manage resources in the event of a large emergency or disaster," Mays said. "It's the ability to get the right equipment, people and information to the right places."

"From my perspective, the message would be that there's a public health and medical system that is reliable and concerned about emergency and disaster response, and is working diligently to provide that level of security for our citizens," said Health Department Emergency Preparedness section chief Tim Wiedrich.

The study shows North Dakota lags behind the national average in community planning and engagement. But Mays says this is fairly common across the nation. And he says North Dakota’s efforts to provide upgraded communications among first responders will help.

Wiedrich agreed there are areas for improvement.

"I've seen substantial increase in the level of exercises, and the amount of training that's being done," Wiedrich said. "We're also acquiring the necessary assets needed to respond. And the planning efforts have continued to improve as well."

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