TARGETS SET FOR AIDS RATE, IMMUNIZATIONS
Audit: Some health goals falling short
Published: Tuesday, January 6, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 6, 2004 at 12:52 a.m.
TALLAHASSEE - While several of Florida's key public health measurements have improved during recent years, a number of goals set by lawmakers have not been met, including lowering the AIDS rate and raising the percentage of 2-year-olds being immunized, according to a legislative audit released Monday.
Standards set by the Legislature for infant mortality, the percentage of low birth weight babies born to poor women and the rate of vaccine-preventable diseases also weren't met, said the audit by the Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, or OPPAGA.
The auditors praised state health officials for a dramatic drop over several years in infant mortality, but noted that it has rebounded in recent years and is higher than the goal legislators set for the Health Department.
From 1993 to 2003, infant mortality in Florida decreased by 12 percent, an important improvement, the auditors said.
But the infant mortality per 1,000 live births has increased in recent years, from 7 deaths per 1,000 births in 2000 to 7.53 in 2003. The goal set by lawmakers for 2003 was 6.7 deaths per 1,000 births. The goal for infant mortality for nonwhite babies also wasn't met.
The Department of Health received about $1.5 billion last year for the Community Public Health Program, which filters the money through local health agencies to address infant mortality and other health problems.
Rob Hayes, a spokesman for the Department of Health, said Health Secretary John Agwunobi didn't dispute the key findings. "He welcomes the feedback," Hayes said.
Agwunobi noted in a letter to the auditors that Florida has the lowest total infant mortality rate and black infant mortality rate in the Southeast. But he recognized that more improvement was needed.
"We are ever cognizant that we continue to face great challenges in discerning the root causes for many of the factors that impact infant mortality, including low birth weight and racial disparities," Agwunobi said. "The department continues to strive for improvement."
OPPAGA auditors also noted that Florida has improved in several major infectious disease measurements, including drastically cutting case rates for AIDS and tuberculosis over the last decade. Also, gonorrhea and syphilis rates have dropped dramatically in the last 10 years.
But the rate of AIDS cases still has not met the goal of 30 per 100,000 people set out by lawmakers for 2003. It was just under 31 per 100,000 last year. Rates for chlamydia and general vaccine-preventable disease also were higher than the standards.
The Health Department agreed with the findings, but offered no explanation.
Auditors also said the rate of immunization for Florida's 2-year-olds was 85.3 percent last year, less than the 90.2 percent rate that lawmakers set as a goal.
Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.
Comments are currently unavailable on this article