Compelling testimony before the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications on April 22 pointed to the importance of public health preparedness and the challenges the nation faces to protect itself against bio-terrorism attacks.
From the opening statement by subcommittee Chairman Martha McSally of Arizona to testimony from Deputy Commissioner Marisa Raphael of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and including a report from former Sen. Jim Talent on his work as co-chairman of the WMD Commission, the message from the hearing was one of much work yet to be done.
Chairman McSally set the stage: “I am honestly surprised that some of the recommendations made six and eight years ago have not been implemented, and that even after the Ebola response we cannot seem to identify the federal official who has the responsibility and authority to coordinate the dozen or so senior officials with responsibility for biological preparedness and defense. It’s just baffling.”
Talent cited several points addressed in his commission’s report cards from 2010 and 2011, which noted the lack of sufficient medical countermeasures in the Strategic National Stockpile and the limited ability to quickly and effectively distribute them to residents who may have been exposed to life-threatening disease.
Ms. Raphael pointed out that public health preparedness funding for New York City has decreased 35 percent over the past decade, leading to a 47 percent reduction in the city’s public health preparedness and response workforce! Those numbers should come as no surprise to other local public health departments, which have faced similar cuts in funding, just as terrorist groups are gaining financial resources and a resolve to do damage to the United States and other nations.
Links to all testimony may be found here.