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Why Our Public Health System Isn't Ready for Another 9/11

September 9, 2011
by Bryan Walsh
TIME Magazine

 

look back over the decade since 9/11, perhaps the most pressing question is this: are we ready for another one?

When it comes to national security, we've certainly spent a lot — by some estimates, more than $1 trillion since Sept. 11, 2001. We've added a whole new Cabinet-level office, the Department of Homeland Security. And we can see how much airport security has changed, at least for the time being, each time we take off our shoes before going through the scanner.

But there's more to preparing for a post-9/11 world than better airport screening, and when it comes to public health, we may actually be worse off than we were a decade ago. That's the conclusion of Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Between persistent budget cuts and the loss of staff, from the federal level on down, we're not ready to respond to a massive disaster, whether it's due to terrorism or Mother Nature.

"There have been tremendous cuts in virtually every program that has to do with preparedness," Redlener told me. "It really undermines our ability to respond and to recover."

 

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