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Frequently Asked Questions

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Why were the Prevention Status Reports (PSRs) developed?
The reports were designed to highlight—for all 50 states and the District of Columbia—the status of certain policies and practices designed to prevent or reduce 10 of the nation’s most important health problems.

Although information about state public health policies and practices is publicly available in various locations, this information is widely dispersed and can be hard for decision makers to find and understand. The PSRs pull together this information in a simple, easy-to-use format that decision makers and other stakeholders can use to examine their state’s status and identify areas for improvement.

How were the 10 health topics selected?
The health topics were selected for inclusion in the PSRs for the following reasons:

  • They align with national and CDC public health priorities and reports, such as CDC Winnable Battles and Vital Signs.
  • Potential solutions drawn from scientific evidence and/or expert recommendations are available.
  • They represent areas where many states can improve public health.

There are other evidence-based public health policies and practices that aren’t included in the PSRs. Why were these not included in the reports?
The PSRs are designed to highlight several key policies and practices that provide an indication of the current status in a state for each topic. To maintain the simple, easy-to-use format, a limited number of policies and practices are included in the reports, and users are referred to other sources (e.g., The Guide to Community Preventive Services) for a more complete assessment of potential solutions. Additional links are provided on each of the PSR topic pages.

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Where can I find comprehensive information about the support behind these policies and practices?
The PSRs do not provide a comprehensive analysis of the science or expert recommendations behind the policies and practices. However, the reports do provide references to the sources supporting each policy and practice. 

Additional information is also provided on each of the PSR topic pages.

What do the ratings mean?
The PSRs use a simple, three-level rating scale—green, yellow, or red—to provide a practical assessment of the status of policies and practices in each state and the District of Columbia.


    Green: A “green” rating indicates that the policy or practice is established in accordance with supporting evidence and/or expert recommendations.

    Yellow: A “yellow” rating indicates that the policy or practice is established in partial accordance with supporting evidence and/or expert recommendations.

    Red: A “red” rating indicates that the policy or practice is either absent or not established in accordance with supporting evidence and/or expert recommendations.

How were the ratings determined?
CDC subject matter experts determined rating categories by considering 1) the distribution of state data, 2) science regarding effectiveness of the policy or practice, and/or 3) expert recommendations regarding the implementation of the policy or practice.  

Further details about the ratings are available on each of the PSR topic-specific web pages.

Do these ratings reflect how well a state is doing to address these public health problems or concerns?
It is important to note that the ratings in the PSRs reflect the status of policies and practices and do not reflect the status of efforts of state health departments, other state agencies, or any other organization to establish or strengthen those policies or practices. Appropriate strategies for improving public health vary by individual state demographics, disease burden, public health priorities, resources, and challenges.

Who is responsible for improving the health policies and practices in each state?
Improving each state’s health policies and practices is a shared responsibility of many sectors:  government agencies, state legislatures and regulatory bodies, healthcare organizations, health coalitions, businesses, and individual citizens. Public health agencies are essential contributors, but they alone cannot solve the nation’s most pressing public health problems without the participation of key decision makers in many sectors of society.

Why don’t the PSRs show how the states rank or compare with one another?
The reports are not designed for comparisons across states, but rather are helpful in periodically tracking each state’s status against a select set of policies and practices supported by systematic scientific reviews, aligned with national action plans or strategies, and/or recommended by national expert bodies. Variations from state to state in public health priorities, disease burden, resources, and challenges make state-by-state comparisons complex.

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