Are We Ready? Public Health since 9/11

210 pages
Paper $28.95
Ebook $28.95

A contemporary history of a critical period, Are We Ready? analyzes the impact of 9/11, the anthrax attacks that followed, and preparations for a possible smallpox attack on the nation’s public health infrastructure. David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz interviewed local, state, and federal officials to determine the immediate reactions of key participants in these events. The authors explore the extent to which these emergencies permanently altered the political, cultural, and organizational life of the country and consider whether the nation is now better prepared to withstand another potentially devastating attack. This well-reasoned and well-researched book presents compelling evidence that few with hands-on experience with disease and emergency preparedness believe that an adequate response to terrorism—whether biological, chemical, or radiological—is possible without a strong and vibrant infrastructure to provide everyday services as well as emergency responses.

Are We Ready? begins with an examination of the experiences of local New York officials who were the first responders to 9/11 and follows them as events unfolded and as state and national authorities arrived. It goes on to analyze how various states dealt with changing federal funding for a variety of public health services. Using oral histories of CDC and other federal officials, the book then focuses on the federal reaction to 9/11 and anthrax. What emerges is a picture of dedicated public servants who were overcome by the emotions of the moment yet who were able to react in ways that significantly reduced the public anxiety and public health threat. Despite the extraordinary opportunity to revitalize and reinvigorate the nation’s public health infrastructure, the growing federal and state budget deficits, the refocusing of national attention on the war in Iraq, and the passage of time all combined to undermine many of the needed reforms to the nation’s public health defenses.


“Rosner and Markowitz provide a well-researched account that should have an impact on the implementation of future public health policy. Their extensive interviews and use of public statements offer readers the opportunity to assess their research and to judge their analysis and commentary. The first-person reports of the chaos of the moment, especially in New York, will enlighten the naïve and invoke harsh memories for readers who more intimately lived through the events.”—Science

“An insightful story of shifting priorities and challenges in the days, months, and years since September 2001. . . . The resulting narrative is rich in unflinching detail. . . .The authors allow readers to generate their own conclusions in response to the question their book’s title poses; this decision is laudable.”—British Medical Journal