Maine CDC Press Release

March 22, 2005

Rural Preparedness

Contacts:
Paul Kuehnert, Executive Director Dora Ann Mills, MD, MPH
Office of Public Health Emergency Preparedness Director & State Health Officer
Maine Bureau of Health Maine Bureau of Health
Dept. of Health and Human Services Dept. of Health and Human Services
Tel:  (207) 592-6817 Tel: (207) 287-8016
TTY: (207) 287-8066 TTY: (207) 287-8066

A new report makes the case that rural states face special challenges in preparing for public health emergencies.

Maine Department of Health and Human Services officials, along with the Harvard School of Public Health and four other schools of public health, contributed to Preparing for Public Health Emergencies: Meeting the Challenges in Rural America. Its findings emphasize that rural states face the same risks from bioterrorism, pandemics, influenza and storms as urban America.

Among its recommendations:

Public health and health care systems in rural America need to be strengthened to meet the challenges of these threats; Policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels need to make sure that rural America has the financial and human resources required to achieve an adequate state of readiness; and, Public health and health care leaders in rural areas need to work together to assure that emergency preparedness is achieved in a cost-effective manner.

“Rural states have already seen a diversion of the federal bioterrorism funds to urban areas – last year, 14% of these funds were diverted from Maine and other states to America’s 22 largest cities,” said Dr. Dora Anne Mills. “Yet, what we find is that whether we live in rural or urban America, we are all vulnerable to public health threats, and all of us deserve the protection of a well-prepared public health and health care system.”

The report presents information and recommendations resulting from a conference that was held in St. Paul, Minn., in September, 2004.

“The session brought together more than 80 public health preparedness leaders from multiple states to identify important yet unique barriers facing rural public health preparedness and the strategies to overcome those barriers,” said Paul Kuehnert, head of the Bureau of Health’s Office of Public Health Emergency Preparedness and co-chair the conference.

“We in Maine are working with other states to learn from each other the most cost-effective ways to prepare rural states for a public health emergency as well as advocate for preservation of federal bioterrorism funds for rural areas,” Kuehnert said.

The report may be found at www.mainepublichealth.gov.