Burr Calls for Improved Public Health Preparedness

North Carolina Director of Public Health Testifies Before Committee

March 16, 2006

Washington, D.C. - At today's hearing on the reauthorization of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, Senator Richard Burr called on the Senate to fix problems and build upon past successes to significantly improve our Nation's public health and medical preparedness for and response.

"The Act of 2002 clearly made improvements in our preparedness after the terrorist attacks on September 11th and the anthrax mailings," Senator Burr told the committee. "However, new potential threats, such as avian flu, and natural disasters demand we build on the progress we have made and prepare for the public health challenges ahead of us."

Burr stressed the reauthorization legislation must reflect recent lessons in the Committee's next steps in three critical areas related to all-hazard preparedness and response:

• Make sure someone within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is in charge of our public health and medical preparedness, response and coordination during a health emergency.

• Modernize how public health departments detect, investigate, and contain health threats, and communicate with citizens.

• Protect the public by more quickly and effectively responding to national and medical emergencies.

The H.E.L.P. Committee also heard testimony from Leah Devlin, Director of the North Carolina Department of Public Health. Under her leadership, North Carolina's public health system was cited last month by the Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina Report as one of the Nation's best in bioterrorism preparedness in coordinating state and local emergency managers. Devlin participated in a Senate Subcommittee of Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness roundtable chaired by Senator Burr in July 2005.

The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 will expire on September 30, 2006. This law enhanced our ability to detect bioterrorist attacks, strengthened the communications networks that link our health care providers with public health authorities and strengthened the ability of our health care system to increase care provided in an emergency.

For more information, go to https://www.burr.senate.gov.