HHS Secretary Thompson Says Public Health System Is ‘Stronger Than Ever’
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson on Friday said that in the past year the U.S. public health system has become "stronger than ever" and has improved relations with the media, although "there is room for improvement," the Associated Press reports. Thompson told reporters and health professionals at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., that the Sept. 11 attacks and the subsequent anthrax attacks last fall forced the government to "change its tactics" in the area of public health. "We are now strengthening and creating what I believe is the best public health system in the world, and that's in contrast to where we were a year ago," Thompson said. Over the past year, the federal government has spent $1.1 billion to establish an improved communications network that allows the media and health professionals to "know the latest details regarding potential threats" and to increase the supply of smallpox and anthrax vaccines, Thompson said. The government has a supply of the antibiotic Cipro to treat 20 million individuals in the event of an anthrax attack and a supply of smallpox vaccine for 160 million individuals, the Associated Press reports. "Every American is going to be covered in the very near future," Thompson said. He also promised that HHS would provide a response to questions from the media about bioterrorism issues. The department provided "few details" to the media about the anthrax attacks last fall, the Associated Press reports. However, Thompson asked reporters to "verify the quality of their sources," to contact HHS when they require an interview with an expert on public health issues and to "understand that science and decision-making evolve as scientists learn more about an ongoing situation." Thompson said, "The worst thing we can do is scare the American public" (Gustafson, Associated Press, 9/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.