WASHINGTON, D.C. — A recently-released study shows Wisconsin was among 20 states that are well-prepared to handle public health emergencies.

The report by Trust for American’s Health, a Washington D.C.-based nonpartisan public health policy organization, ranked the preparedness performance of states based on 10 indicators including nurse licensure, hospital participation in healthcare coalitions, flu vaccination rates and public health funding.

John Auerbach, the president and CEO of the organization says Wisconsin checked quite a few of those boxes.

“Relative to other states, Wisconsin had a number of the indicators that would show it was well prepared for an emergency,” said Auerbach. “At the same time it did well relative to other states it was clearly room for improvement and those two ones were around paid sick leave for the employees of the state and the percentage of people who should be vaccinated for seasonal flu, again, better than many states but quite a bit lower than what's recommended.”

All state agencies in Wisconsin have participated in training and review of the Wisconsin’s Emergency Response Plan (WERP) according to Wisconsin Department of Health Services. A representative explained how the department applied safeguards from previous emergencies like H1N1 and ebola outbreaks to the latest health crisis.

“Within two weeks of the first COVID cases, Wisconsin stood up a full-blown incident response structure, relying on all branches of state government to staff and manage the COVID response,” said Elizabeth Goodsitt, a spokesperson for Wisconsin Department of Health Services in a statement to Spectrum News. “The WERP has proven to be flexible, as the COVID response team and task forces have expanded into PPE distribution, testing development and delivery, decontamination, patient response, electronic monitoring and notification, and now vaccination planning and delivery.”

While the report reflects on the challenges caused by the pandemic, it does not include a stat-by-state analysis of how well they handled it because it’s still ongoing. But Auerbach says there are quite a few lessons learned from the outbreak a year ago that Wisconsin can apply.

“What we've seen in Wisconsin, what we've seen across the country and from the federal government is that there's a tendency to underfund the public health system in the country until there's an emergency,” he said. “What we've learned over time, but particularly with COVID, is you've got to give significant core support to your state and local health departments so that they're able to prevent emergencies, prevent bad things from happening, and not simply respond when a bad thing happens and resources are made available. We need strong public health systems in the country.”