September 11 and subsequent anthrax attacks demonstrated clearly that our public health system was not prepared to cope with a large-scale emergency. Congress responded by appropriating $1.8 billion to help states and communities better prepare. Another $1.12 billion is contained in the omnibus appropriations bill for 2004 awaiting final action.
Where didthe nation stand two years after the tragedy? To what extent have states improved emergency communications? What are the major bottlenecks in bolstering the country’s ability to counter a bioterrorist attack? What can be done to bolster preparedness at the federal, state and local levels? How have state budget cuts affected plans for dealing with bioterrorism?
To help examine these questions and others, the Alliance for Health Reform sponsored a December 11, 2003 briefing with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Panelists were: Shelley Hearne, executive director of Trust for America’s Health, who discussed the findings of a study her organization had recently completed; Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association; and Leah Devlin, health director of North Carolina. Ed Howard of the Alliance moderated.