Public Policy Group Says Bureaucracy Puts
Public Health at Risk

Contact: Steven Milloy, TASSC
202-467-8586, or e-mail:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The following was released today by the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition:

Government bureaucracy puts the public health at risk, says the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC).

Both U.S. public health officials and the World Health Organization (WHO) have been aware for decades that an influenza pandemic like the one that killed millions during 1918-19 could strike without warning. But progress has yet to be made even on a plan to deal with a pandemic should one break out.

The failure to formulate a plan has placed the public health at significant risk, especially now that the Hong Kong flu surprised public health officials by being transmitted from chickens to humans without going through other animals first. So far there have been 17 confirmed cases of flu in humans, including four deaths. Should this strain of flu mix with other human influenza strains now circulating, a major deadly pandemic could result.

The National Academy of Sciences first warned the United States government in 1977 to come up with a plan for addressing emerging infectious diseases. But a 1978 blueprint was never officially approved. A panel created in 1993 to come up with an influenza plan has not accomplished its sole mission. Progress by the WHO amounts to little more than a "plan to make a plan." And influenza unpreparedness isn't the only example of an underachieving bureaucracy:

-- In 1981, the HIV virus took the public health bureaucracy by surprise.

-- After 16 years, the public health establishment is just now coming to grips with the E.coli 0157:H7, a foodborne pathogen that kills hundreds and sickens many thousands more annually.

-- In 1985, the National Research Council identified traumatic injury as the "number one" public health problem in the United States. But little progress has been made to improve systems that could save as many as 25,000 of the 150,000 lives lost annually to traumatic injury.

-- A recent New England Journal of Medicine article called the effect of new treatments on cancer mortality "disappointing."

Recently announced government plans to dramatically increase the funding for the National Institutes of Health holds promise only if those funds are directed toward research on our most pressing health needs.

Congress should initiate a complete review of the existing health research budget before new funds are committed. "This action will ensure the new funds will be going toward basic research for early diagnosis, improved treatments and cures for diseases rather than supporting the bureaucracy," said Steven Milloy, executive director of TASSC.

TASSC is a nonprofit organization of scientists, former public policy officials and private citizens interested in promoting the use of sound science in public policy. TASSC is located at 1155 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Suite 300, Washington, D.C., 20036. TASSC's websites are located at and

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