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NACCHO Marks 10th Anniversary of 9/11 and Anthrax Tragedies; Celebrates Strides in Preparedness


Contact Becky Wexler
(301) 652-1558

Read the results of a new NACCHO co-sponsored survey that explores how Americans' and public health professionals' attitudes about terrorism and natural disasters changed in the decade since 9/11. 9/11 Opinion Survey Report
NACCHO Marks 10th Anniversary of 9/11 and Anthrax Tragedies; Celebrates Strides in Preparedness
Washington, DC (September 8, 2011)—A decade ago, the words “bioterrorism preparedness” were not yet part of the public’s vocabulary. But since the events of September 11, 2001, and subsequent anthrax attacks, we’ve learned to expect—and carefully plan for—the unexpected. The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) is proud of the role that its members, the nation’s 2,800 local health departments, have played to ensure that all American communities are ready to respond to emergencies and acts of terrorism.  

Public health professionals have long helped people prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. These roles were highlighted during the September 11 and anthrax tragedies. On and immediately after September 11, state and local public health department officials joined other first responders to ready the Strategic National Stockpile, provide services such as mental health counseling for people affected by these tragic events, and advise community leaders on how to respond. Less than a month later, public health officials led the anthrax response – identifying the threat, diagnosing and treating victims, and running more than a million tests on approximately 125,000 samples of white powder around the country.

“After the September 11 and anthrax attacks, community members and leaders rediscovered the importance of local and state health department experts and have repeatedly tapped into this resource since," noted Robert M. Pestronk, NACCHO's executive director.

For 10 years, our nation’s local health departments have relied on federal funding for public health preparedness to work with all sectors of a community—government officials, law enforcement, emergency management, health care, business, education, non-profit and religious groups, among others—to plan, train, and respond effectively to a range of disasters and threats. This work, by necessity, is ongoing to ensure they will be ready to spring into action when the next disaster strikes. And although local health departments have made great strides in the last decade, recently-threatened preparedness funding cuts mean that fewer trained professionals and volunteers will be ready to protect people and respond to health threats and emergencies, from earthquakes to floods to  the intentional release of biological, chemical, or radiological agents by those who want to cause us great harm.

"These cuts undermine community preparedness and response nationwide and the local health departments that serve them,” said Pestronk. “Without sustained preparedness funding, response capacity, let alone progress, is unreliable and the risk of being caught off guard increases.”

Many compelling stories that illustrate the public health response to the September 11, 2001 and anthrax tragedies are now available to the public in a new report, Remembering 9/11 and Anthrax:  Public Health’s Vital Role in National Defense, released last week. As a proud contributor to the report, NACCHO commends the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for producing  this important 10th anniversary compendium featuring more than 30 firsthand, on-the-ground accounts of local health department and other public health professionals who were directly involved.

About the National Association of County and City Health Officials
The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) represents the nation's 2,800 local governmental health departments. These city, county, metropolitan, district, and tribal departments work every day to protect and promote health and well-being for all people in their communities.