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

tates Postal Service, public health authorities in the District of Columbia, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to the 2001 anthrax scare, the study says. And there is a history of discriminatory public health policies against minorities in the United States, according to the paper.

At the turn of the last century, for example, public health officials quarantined San Francisco's Chinatown in response to a cluster of plague cases--a move that a federal court in 1900 ruled as unfair, saying that the quarantine was based on ethnic bias.

Health officials also unfairly distributed resources during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, and in Baltimore, Jim Crow segregation laws barred African Americans from hospitals, contributing to the city's high mortality rates and poor public health, the study notes.

In 1994, California voters passed Proposition 187, which would have prohibited undocumented immigrants from receiving publicly funded health care and required physicians to report these patients to immigration authorities. The law was ultimately struck down as unconstitutional.

Finally, the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act aims to restrict immigrants' access to public health services. While generally not followed by state and local health authorities, the act requires the reporting of undocumented immigrants who seek medical assistance.

The UCLA study was based on interviews with 8,167 participants who answered 120 core questions. A random sample of 1,041 participants answered 12 additional questions about terrorism.

According to the paper, public health officials can alleviate this perceived unfairness to minority groups by including their representatives in bioterrorism-response planning, and urging community participation during the response. It may also be necessary to address provisions of welfare and immigration laws in order to design and implement an effective respo

Contact: Enrique Rivero
University of California - Los Angeles

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