3146.0: Monday, November 13, 2000 - 2:30 PM

Abstract #14525

Bioterrorism: Public Paranoia or Public Health Threat?

Jan Semenza, PhD, MPH, MS, School of Community Health, Portland State University, PO Box 751, Portland, OR 97207-0751, 503-725-8262, semenzaj@pdx.edu

Since 1994, government funding has dramatically increased for building an infrastructure capable of detecting and responding to predicted public health emergencies from bioterrorism. Will a merger between public health and national security endanger the independence of the public health system and lead to militarization of public health? From a human rights standpoint, could this bioterrorism initiative jeopardize patient confidentiality during outbreak investigations? Are public health resources being allocated to bioterrorism funneling important funds away from other public health programs with more immediate benefits? To date, bioterrorism attacks have been extremely rare and therefore may not justify enormous public health expenditures if bioterrorism does not turn out to pose a serious threat to the civilian population.

On the other hand, bioterrorism resources have been allocated to support general epidemic preparedness in every state. For example, health departments have been equipped with technologies to improve diagnostic (such as PCR) and communication capabilities, and $65 million has been invested in real-time surveillance. Although these funds had not been designated for specific programs, they will have a wide reaching impact on public health infrastructure and will have a variety of spin-offs. Therefore, many of the resources devoted to bioterrorism may prove to be beneficial to the public health community as a whole.

The question therefore emerges: will this bioterrorism initiative prove to be beneficial to the public health system in the long run, or is it a diversion of badly needed public health resources?

Learning Objectives: list 5 benefits from the bioterrorist initiative for public health list 5 drawbacks from the bioterrorist initiative for public health

Keywords: Bioterrorism, Public Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
Organization/institution whose products or services will be discussed: None
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

The 128th Annual Meeting of APHA