In advance of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation issued a report today that chronicles the events of that period and underscores the importance of public health in assuring safe, healthy communities. Remembering 9/11 and Anthrax: Public Health’s Vital Role in National Defense features more than 30 firsthand accounts of public health professionals who were directly involved in the response to the Sept. 11, 2001, and subsequent anthrax tragedies.
The accounts include perspectives from public health providers, public health laboratory personnel and federal, state and local officials, including Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health; Mary Selecky, secretary of health for the Washington State Department of Health; and Stephen Keener, MD, MPH, medical director at the Mecklenburg County, N.C., Health Department.
Among the reflections, APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E), then-secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, recalls, “On Sept. 11, 2001, our country’s notion of national defense forever changed. With the subsequent anthrax attacks, it became apparent that public health is just as important to protecting our citizens as any missile defense shield… I always knew we protected people and improved their health, but we had never before seen ourselves as an integral part of the homeland security infrastructure.”
The stories reflect how these tragic 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 highlighted in the report.
The full report is available on the Trust for America’s Health website.
Where were you during the 9/11 and anthrax attacks? Have we made progress in emergency response preparedness?