The Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) have released a new report, "Remembering 9/11 and Anthrax: Public Health's Vital Role in National Defense," featuring more than 30 firsthand, on-the-ground accounts of public health professionals who were directly involved in the response to the Sept. 11, 2001 and anthrax tragedies.
The stories recall how:
- On Sept. 11, in a period of uncertainty, officials activated a range of responses, including readying the Strategic National Stockpile, and providing services, including mental health counseling, in the aftermath
- Public health officials were at the lead of the anthrax response diagnosing and treating victims and running more than a million tests on approximately 125,000 samples around the country. The report contains a timeline of the anthrax attacks and investigation.
The stories also reflect how these events marked the first time that public health came to be considered central to emergency response and national security on a wide-scale basis and the stories reflect how these officials were working without adequate resources or training to respond to these types of attacks. A summary of how public health preparedness has evolved in the past 10 years is also included in the report.
Some contributors include Anthony Fauci, M.D., Director NIAID/NIH; Senator Tom Daschle, former U.S. Senator from South Dakota and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader; Isaac Weisfuse; M.D. MPH, Deputy Commissioner of the Division of Disease Control of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; John R. Lumpkin, Senior Vice President and Director, Health Care Group, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and former Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health; Sara T. Beatrice, Ph.D.., New York City Public Health Laboratory; Georges Benjamin, M.D., FACP, FACEP (E), FNAPA, Hon FRSPH, executive director of the American Public Health Association and former Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; and stories from a range of officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and state and local public health officials in New York, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Florida, Connecticut, New Jersey, Arizona, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, and Washington State.
"In 2001, we experienced the unimaginable. In 2011, we know we need to expect the unexpected. Over the past decade, we've made smart, strategic investments in preparedness, and there's been a lot of progress to show for it. We can be proud of the improvements. Of course, there is a lot left to be done, which will require further effort. But, regardless, the field of public health preparedness was forever changed 10 years ago, and we should never forget why," says Gov. Lowell Weicker, Jr., former three-term U.S. senator and governor of Connecticut andpPresident of the board of directors at TFAH.
The report also includes a summary of the public health preparedness successes over the last decade. In addition, the report features an analysis of ongoing gaps in preparedness, that, if not addressed, could leave Americans vulnerable in the future.
Some key areas of progress over the past decade include significant improvements in: preparedness planning and coordination; public health laboratories; vaccine manufacturing; the Strategic National Stockpile; pharmaceutical and medical equipment distribution; surveillance; communications; legal and liability protections; increasing and upgrading staff and surge capacity.
Some ongoing gaps a decade later include: major recent budget cuts; a gap in trained public health workers; a gap in surge capacity for mass care during emergencies; a lack of an integrated, national approach to biosurveillance; gaps in supporting the way communities cope and recover from disasters; and gaps in vaccine and pharmaceutical research, development and manufacturing.
The report is available on TFAH's website at www.healthyamericans.org.