Report Warns Of Rural Bioterrorism
School of Public Health advocates more funding for rural anti-terrorist measures
The report, which was also sponsored by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and four other public health schools, comes at a time when the federal government is distributing federal preparedness funds based on risk, with a particular focus on high-risk urban areas, according to the 2006 Homeland Security budget.
“The issue here is not rural versus urban area,” said report co-author Joshua Frances, a research assistant at HSPH and the Center for Public Health Preparedness. “Urban areas are more vulnerable and need more resources. But rural areas need to be prepared.”
Frances, along with co-authors Michael Merit, director of the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health, and Paul Campbell, lecturer on management, cited several areas of rural America that are particularly vulnerable to bioterrorism.
“Though many perceive rural areas to be just farmland, plains, and dense forest, much of the nation’s water supply, food supply, and critical industries (power plant and water treatment facilities) are located in rural areas,” Frances said in a press release.
The report, entitled “Preparing for Public Health Emergencies: Meeting the Challenges in Rural America,” calls for congressional hearings on the issue of bioterrorism risk and a General Accounting Office report.
It comes on the heels of recent comments by Director of the Department of Homeland Security Michel Chernoff, saying that high-risk urban areas will be prioritized in the distribution of federal bioterror preparedness grants.
The 2006 Homeland Security budget will allocate $2 billion out of $3.5 billion based specifically on risk.
In response, some politicians representing rural areas are maneuvering to bring federal money to their constituencies.
Senator Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Congressman John Peterson (R-Pa.) have embraced the HSPH report.
“Natural disasters, disease outbreaks and potential impacts from a bioterrorism attack do not discriminate based on population or geographic location,” said Peterson in a press release dated March 22.
The report is the product of a Sept. 2004 conference in St. Paul, MN., that investigated the obstacles to rural public health preparedness and strategies to overcome them.