May 4, 2004 – Delegate Donna M. Christensen, who chairs the Health Braintrust of the Congressional Black Caucus, joined a fellow Democrat, U.S. Rep. Jim Turner of Texas, on Tuesday in introducing legislation to reduce from years to weeks the time needed to develop new cures for bioterrorism threats.
Turner is the ranking member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, of which Christensen is a member.
Christensen, a family physician and former public health official, told her colleagues that the proposed Rapid Pathogen Identification to Delivery of Cures Act "takes stock of what we know about our preparedness and what experts tell us is needed."
Federal officials "learned a lot from the anthrax incidents," Christensen said, citing a Government Accounting Office report which pointed to the strain on the public health system of responding to anthrax alerts in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"We cannot wait until we are faced with an attack before developing the means to quickly produce effective countermeasures," she said.
The proposed legislation can be an important step in addressing "our current need for countermeasures to the everyday infectious diseases that challenge us," Christensen said. But also, she added, the bill focuses on the need to develop "new and effective vaccines and treatments to previously unknown, new, created or modified harmful pathogens."
She said the bill is important to minority communities: "Any stress on the public health system directly affects minorities, because we are very dependent on it and are affected by how well it performs."
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