HHS should develop a plan for health screening and monitoring services for disaster responders that incorporates the lessons learned from the health programs developed after Sept. 11, 2001, the Government Accountability Office recommended in a new report. After the terrorist attacks, Congress appropriated more than $8 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for response and recovery activities, and HHS received some of the funding to establish health screening and monitoring programs for responders to the disaster. Later, HHS received more money to fund treatment. According to the GAO, about $369.2 million has been appropriated or awarded for World Trade Center health programs.
In the absence of a department-level plan, HHS National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health developed a proposal in February 2008 for a project to develop strategies to ensure responder safety and health, the report said. While GAO concluded that this proposal is a step in the right direction for addressing responder health issues, it noted that the proposal does not fully address the lessons that have been identified from the World Trade Center health programs. (For a longer version of this story, please click here. Also see a related Other News item below.) -- by Jessica Zigmond