How ready is New Jersey for a major public-health threat?
New Jersey scores a 6.8 out of 10 for the state's ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from public health emergencies, according to the just-released National Health Security Preparedness Index.
The Garden State's score rose slightly from 2013, and it narrowly topped the national average of 6.7.
The report, released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, analyzed more than 100 measures — from flu vaccination rates to hazard planning for public schools — to gauge how prepared each state would be for emergencies such as weather-related disasters, infectious disease outbreaks, terrorist attacks or issues with food or water safety.
"That northeast quarter of states is one the regions of the U.S. where we see particularly high levels of preparedness and health security," said Glen Mays, of the University of Kentucky, who leads a team of researchers who manage the index. "For New Jersey, there's a lot of good news here."
The index does not rank the states, but New Jersey is one of 18 states considered to be the "leading group" in the report.
Looking at individual categories, compiled of multiple measures, New Jersey scored above the national average quite a bit.
The state received a score of 7.8 for Health Security Surveillance, which measures a state's ability to detect potential health problems early on. According to Mays, New Jersey has seen a 12 percent improvement in surveillance capabilities over time.
New Jersey also scored well, 8.8 out of 10, in Incident & Information Management — how protocols are performed and how communication is handled "in the eye of the storm."
New Jersey, though, received poorer scores for categories such as Environmental & Occupational Health.
"Many of the measures in this domain have to do with being able to monitor the quality and safety of water and food and air for potential problems that could turn into large-scale emergencies," Mays said. "New Jersey appears to have been losing some strength in that area over time."
On Apr. 5, Gov. Chris Christie announced plans to spend $10 million on combating lead contamination in low- and moderate-income communities. The announcement came shortly after headlines about lead contamination in the water at 30 Newark school buildings.
The nation overall has seen an improvement of 3.6 percent since the index began three years ago.