NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Political Agenda of Public Health Groups

December 13, 2001

In the month following the Sept. 11 attack, the American Public Health Association (APHA) compiled "Guiding Principles for a Public Health Response to Terrorism." But instead of offering a blueprint focusing on bioterrorism threats such as anthrax and smallpox with plans to update labs and improve our response to epidemics, the first points on the APHA's 12-point plan are to:

  • "Address poverty, social injustice and health disparities that may contribute to the development of terrorism."
  • "Provide humanitarian assistance to [those] . . . directly or indirectly affected by terrorism."
  • "Promote nonviolent means of conflict resolution."

Not until point four does the APHA address public health needs, such as improving laboratory and surveillance systems.

The guidelines then mix calls for greater vaccine availability and data collection systems with appeals for the prevention of hate crimes, elimination of nuclear weapons and for "dialogue among peoples."

Thus five of the 12 guidelines deal with the APHA's "social engineering" agenda, says physician Sally Satel, with no reference to anything traditionally associated with public health.

In addition to advancing practical techniques for disease and injury prevention, enforcing standards of scholarship, and educating policy makers, the APHA is preoccupied with tangential national and international policy issues. This year, for example, the APHA put forth policy resolutions against national missile defense, the war in Southwest Asia, and the General Agreement on Trade in Services.

Other public health organizations, such as the American College of Epidemiologists and the World Health Organization, seem preoccupied with social justice issues -- whereas traditional public health concerns are now a matter of national defense.

Source: Sally Satel (American Enterprise Institute), "Public Health? Forget It. Cosmic Issues Beckon," Wall Street Journal, December 13, 2001.

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