Nation’s Public Health System Needs Bolstering

Washington, D.C., October 16, 2001–Experts say our public health system is inadequate to effectively deal with potential bioterrorist attacks. A Senate committee heard testimony recently from members of various organizations and universities involved in public health.

Individuals testifying included representatives from the American Public Health Association, the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, and Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies. They cited as problems the lack of coordination among county, city, and state public health agencies as a problem, poor interagency communications, and inadequate staffing schedules. As things now stand, they said, a bioterrorist attack occurring on a Friday or over the weekend would not be reported until Monday morning.

It was proposed that almost $2 billion must be spend to establish a viable bioterrorism preparedness public health system. That money, advocates say, should be spent on staffing, training, epidemiology, surveillance, improved laboratory facilities, expanded hospital capacity, and putting together a supply of pharmaceuticals for national use.

Despite the shortcomings of the nation’s public health system, the experts said the system was efficient in rapidly identifying the anthrax microbes in Florida.

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