Former Vice President Gore Says Bioterrorism Preparedness Should Be Top Health Priority
Former Vice President Al Gore (D) yesterday said the United States needs a "national defense public health act" to address an increased threat of biological attack if the United States invades Iraq, the AP/Orlando Sentinel reports. Speaking to an audience at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Gore said, "The strong possibility of a biological weapons attack against the United States demands a new response. We need a new national defense public health act to responsibly address this imminent threat" (Lester, AP/Orlando Sentinel, 10/25). According to Gore, the nation's current public health system presents a "dangerous weakness" and should be considered the country's top health care priority. Further, a possible war with Iraq, which intelligence agencies have said would respond with biological attacks, and the presence of al Qaeda have fostered "an immediate and urgent need" for federal action on improving the public health system. Gore added that addressing the problem of the uninsured should take "a back seat" to improving public health agencies' ability to handle a bioterrorist attack. Although Gore praised a bioterrorism preparedness bill passed by Congress and signed by President Bush earlier this year, an adviser to Gore said he favors a "more comprehensive approach" (Balz, Washington Post, 10/25). Gore said that the federal government should:
- ensure that the nation's public health system is prepared to detect and respond to a bioterrorist attack;
- integrate preventive services into the current primary care system;
- improve communication between public health entities and government agencies regarding disease outbreaks; and
- bolster the nation's food and water safety procedures (AP/Orlando Sentinel, 10/25).