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Last Updated: Friday, 9 September 2005, 08:03 GMT 09:03 UK
War on terror 'causing US deaths'
New Orleans
Response to Hurricane Katrina has been affected, Professor Frank said
The US government's focus on the war on terror has diverted funds from healthcare, leading to many deaths, a leading health expert claims.

Professor Erica Frank said the effects of funding diversion had been sharply felt following Hurricane Katrina.

She said, while 3,400 died in the 9/11 attacks, around 5,200 Americans died on the same day from common diseases.

A similar number have died from these same causes each day since, she wrote in the British Medical Journal.

Professor Frank looked at annual mortality from a range of causes, such as cancer, heart disease stroke, flu and Alzheimer's disease.

She then divided that figure by 365 to estimate how many died on that particular day.

Risk 'being magnified'

Professor Frank, who is an expert in family and preventative medicine based at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, said public health experts first became concerned about "disproportionate" US government funding of bioterrorism prevention, rather than other public health care three years ago.

Predictable tragedies happen every day
Professor Erica Frank

"As early as 2002, many people thought that the Bush plan for smallpox vaccination was a misguided reflection of public health funds for bioterrorism preparedness, and it was thwarted."

She said such preparations were still being "magnified beyond its potential risk".

Professor Frank said that, in September 2002, New York was awarded $1.3m to reduce heart disease, the leading killer of people in the city, while $34m was awarded for bioterrorism preparedness in the state.

FBI funds designated for investigating fraud in health care also seem to have shifted to other purposes, including fighting terrorism, and military funds for cleaning up polluted sites and meeting clean air standards have been proposed for capping and exemption by the Pentagon, she said.

Professor Frank added: "These observations are not intended to diminish the tragedies of 11 September 2001 or 7 July 2005 or other terrorist actions, nor to negate the importance of developing effective ways of making sure such tragedies are not repeated.

"Nor do I intend to suggest that all the blame for catastrophic or everyday events should be attributed to any government, or that any quantity of redirected funds could completely erase these events."

But she said while governments had to act to protect a nation's security, funding for other areas should not suffer.

"Predictable tragedies happen every day.

"We know that strategies to reduce deaths from tobacco, alcohol, poor diet, unintentional injuries and other predictable causes.

"And we know that millions of people will die unless we protect the population against these routine causes of death."

In a statement the US Centres for Disease Control said: "CDC certainly understands and agrees that public health infrastructure in the US needs to continue to be expanded to counter natural or intentional public health events.

"CDC provides funding to state health departments for what we term an "all hazards" approach to public health preparedness.

"This approach, for instance, includes the expansion of surveillance methods and lab capabilities used by public health to detect and confirm a naturally occurring event such as flu along with a biological."

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