A review of instruments assessing public health preparedness.
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The purpose of this study was to review instruments that assess the level of preparedness of state and local public health departments to respond to health threats such as bioterrorism.The authors examined 27 published population-based instruments for planning or evaluating preparedness that were mostly unavailable in the peer-reviewed literature. Using the Essential Public Health Services framework, the instruments were evaluated for (1) clarity of measurement parameters, (2) balance between structural and process measures, (3) evidence of effectiveness, and (4) specification of an accountable entity.There was a great deal of overlap but little consistency in what constitutes "preparedness" or how it should be measured. Most instruments relied excessively on subjective or structural measures, lacked scientific evidence for measures assessed, and failed to clearly define what entity was accountable for accomplishing the task or function.Strategies for improvement include measure standardization, better interagency communication, and investment in public health practice research to develop the underlying evidence base required for developing quality measures and assessments.