Minorities worry public health system won't respond fairly in a bioterrorist event

While nearly three-quarters of Americans believe that the public health system would respond fairly in a bioterrorist event, African-Americans and Asians adhere to this view in smaller proportions, perhaps because of past discriminatory policies put in place by health officials, according to a new UCLA study.

The findings will be published in late September in Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science. The article is also available online at the journal's Web site, http://www.biosecurityjournal.com/PDFs/v2n304/520402.pdf.

The multivariate study, based on a random-digit, population-based telephone survey of Los Angeles County residents, found that 72 percent of respondents overall believe that the public health system would respond fairly in a bioterrorist event.

Breaking the results down by ethnicity, however, revealed that only 63 percent of African Americans and 68 percent of Asians/Pacific Islanders--groups often discriminated against by the system-- believe that the public health system would respond fairly. By contrast, 73 percent of Latinos and 77 percent of whites thought the system's response would be fair.

Public health officials would be wise to improve their relationships with minority communities, which would help ensure an effective response both to a bioterrorist attack and disease outbreaks, according to the paper's authors

"The public's trust and cooperation will determine the success of our public health response to a large bioterror attack," said Dr. David Eisenman, assistant professor of general internal medicine and health services research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "These agencies must better integrate minority communities into their terrorism response planning."

Previous reports indicate that African Americans and other groups felt betrayed by the response of the United S

Contact: Enrique Rivero
University of California - Los Angeles

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