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9/11: Fall and Rise
Dung Hoang

9/11: Fall and Rise (continued)

With Hurricane Katrina, H5N1, H1N1 and the Gulf oil spill, the need for strong public health preparedness has been confirmed and reconfirmed. Perhaps because of lessons learned in the wake of 9/11, faculty at the School were faster and better at responding to some of these events.

“In the Gulf oil spill,” says Breysse, “BP paid attention to worker protection. They collected air samples, they did a lot more environmental sampling—that’s a result of 9/11. Now we’re thinking ahead of the game.”

Of the funding that followed 9/11, Sommer says, “It took years for funds to be distributed into the vaccine industry, and we still have no capacity.”

Overall, he is skeptical about how much progress has been made. “We’re a disorganized society,” he says. “I don’t think we’ve gone anywhere, really. Look at how we responded to Katrina. Perhaps we’re better at identifying a threat, such as SARS or flu. But do we have new drugs for anthrax? No. Do we have new vaccines for anthrax? No. Do we have new ways to deliver vaccines in an organized manner? No.”

“We haven’t gone far… I bet very few faculty have adequate emergency drinking water. I bet very few people have adequate food supplies… The country may have let its guard down.” —Thomas Burke

Says Links, “[As a country] our risk communication is still terrible… We do an absolutely terrible job of getting the public prepared. I think we’ll finally achieve what we need to achieve when preparedness and response are viewed as a natural part of public health activities.”

Burke is encouraged by the increase in students taking courses in preparedness: “I think we have made progress and our students are more dedicated than ever to making a difference and making sure we can be ready to respond to the threats of the future.

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