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Press Briefing Transcripts

World Trade Center Grant Announcement


July 24, 2008
11:00 a.m. EST

OPERATOR: Good afternoon and thank you all for holding. At this time your lines have been placed on listen only until we open up for questions and answers. Please be advised today's conference is being recorded. If you have any objections, you may disconnect at this time. I would now like to turn the conference over to . Please go ahead ma’am.

Glen Nowak, Director of Media Relations, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:  Thanks for joining us this press briefing this morning about a new grant program that’s going to be administered by CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. We have two people who are going to be talking this morning, the first is Dr. Julie Gerberding, who is going to provide some opening remarks, and Dr. Gerberding is going to be followed by Dr. Christine Branche, the Acting Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and Dr. Gerberding, after her opening remarks, will be going on to another meeting, so Dr. Branche will be taking over the press conference at that point, after Dr. Branche’s opening statement,  she will open the floor for questions, and take questions from those of you who may have them. So right now, we will start by letting Dr. Gerberding  make some opening remarks.

Dr. Julie Gerberding, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):  Thank you for joining us for this announcement and press briefing. You know, I was sitting here thinking about this latest installment we are making to try to support the people who are affected by the World Trade Center catastrophe, and I realized that my own daughter was in Manhattan when those towers came down, and it is something that, you know, that, at the time, we had concerns about, and I can only imagine what the concerns are for the people who have been living in that area where we’re responding in the Ground Zero environment. So it’s very important to me to just affirm how important this whole issue is for CDC, HHS, and NIOSH and that we want to continue to put a high priority on trying to identify and monitor the needs of all the people whose lives were affected by those attacks on the World Trade Center.  We have, to date, invested at least $925 million in the programs to support the responders and, now, the non-responders to the 9/11 situation.  These dollars have been used for a lot of things and I am not sure everyone is completely aware of all of the efforts that are underway, not just by CDC but by others. The CDC efforts have focused first and foremost on medical screening, monitoring and treatment for those people from New York or from other parts fo the country that responded at Ground Zero. We’ve also filled a health registy of other people who were exposed, including those in the community. And we are trying to monitor that registry for trends in illness that would be suggestive of longer term health effects that would require interventions..  We’ve also, kind of behind the scenes, been looking at the information and experience, and certainly want to identify any areas that science would dictate changes in our preparedness guidelines and NIOSH has actually already published several updated recommendations to responders to enhance worker safety and protection. And then, finally, the   efforts that are going on through Mt. Sinai, Belleview, and the health department in New York City and others to just really support the health care workers who are managing these individuals and trying to provide them with the best possible informatin and any updated prospectives that we have. So the investment of almost a billion dollars that has been invested in supporting the aftermath and the health consequences of 9/11 really need to be looked at as an ongoing process. And there is a lot of uncertainty in this process – we’ve never done like this, and CDC itself has never really been involved in this kind of care and treatment program so one of the reasons why there has been some uncertainty about the investments and the prioritizations is because we really don’t have the knowledge or the confidence to predict how many people will ultimately be affected or what the nature of the adverse complications could be or what the health needs of the people in the community around the Ground Zero but also those people who dedicated their efforts to helping in the aftermath.  So we are operating in an environment of uncertainty and we have to expect that these things are going to change. We are going to learn as we go forward.  Things that may not be apparent now could result in efforts and have consequences down the road , but how many, who, when – there’s just no information to really tell us the answers to these questions so you can expect adjustements and changes to this program as we go forward and those adjustments will include considerations of whether our resource needs are adequate or too generous or whatever. We want to be open, this is our good faith estimate, but if we are wrong, we will adjust and make sure we are doing everything we can to provide for the health protections needs of these people. And with that, I would be remiss if I didn’t the Department of Health and Human Services and also Congress for making these resources available to us, but also the State of New York and the health officials in those city health departments in New York, but also the hospitals and clinics and occupational health groups that have really stepped forward to try to do what they can do to protect these workers. So we are really pleased today to be making the next installment to address the needs of the community who could have been affected by this. With that I would like to introduce Dr. Christine Branche, the acting NIOSH director whose been working with NIOSH on this and other issues for some time now and she will provide some of the details of the program and hopefully be able to answer any questions or concerns you might have. Thank you, Dr. Branch. 

Dr. Christine Branche, Acting Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH): Thank you and good morning and let me also thank you for joining us this morning as I give you some more details. I am Dr. Christine Branche,and I am the acting director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health at CDC.  

Today, we are putting out a request for grant proposals for projectsdesigned to provideadditional health and medical services for people whose health was or may have been harmed in the September 11, 2007, World Trade Center attack. This program will be making available up to $30 million dollars over the course of the next three years, with the funding part of theConsolidated Appropriations Act of 2008 which was passed by the Congress in December2007.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act broadened existing federalactivities related tothe World Trade Centerattacksto encompass additionalgroups of people who were or may have been harmed, particularly by the dust and debris, toinclude residents, students and othermembers of the community. Thisgrantprogram is thus guided byCongress’ decision to provide fundingforhealth and medical-related projects designed to provide services tothesepopulations.

Under this new program, we will be funding up to three organizationsover the course of the next three years to provide acomprehensive set ofhealth-relatedactivities for residents, students and other members of the community who were affected by the September 11 attack.We expect these activities to include health screenings and assessments, health monitoring and tracking, andimproved access to health care services and treatments.

Under this grant program,these public health dollars will be distributed through competitive grants administered by NIOSH. The deadline for proposal submissions for the grants is August 23, 2008.(CORRECTION : This should be August  25, 2008) As the grant announcementindicates,entities that currently provide referral or health services and treatment, and that are able to do soat the beginning of the grant period, are eligible to apply for funding under this program.As such, we encourage medical and health care facilities to apply. We expect to make the announcement of the funding recipients bythe end of September of this year.

The new funding will continue support that was provided to the community through previous funds from other sources. And it is a continuation of the support that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has provided to responders in the World Trade Center rescue and recovery.

I would like to thank our public health partners, the community at large, and everyone both within and outside of NIOSH who have worked closely with us to put together this funding opportunity.

I am now happy to take any questions you may have.

Nowak: Thank you Christine, before we take the first question, I just want to clarify one thing. I believe the grant deadline is August 25, 2008 – I think you may have said the 23rd.

Branche: Thank you for that, I just received a note myself.

Nowak: It’s August 25th. And with that, I will ask the moderator to open the lines for the first question.

Operator: Thank you. At this time, if you would like to ask a question please press star followed by one on your touch tone phone. You will be

prompted to record your name, and I will announce you prior to asking your question. And once again, to ask a question please press star followed by one. One moment for our first question.  Our first question comes from  Amanda Farinacci from New York One. 

Farinacci: If you guys are looking to nail down three health facilities to administer these programs, are you looking to target hospitals that have been doing these programs, like Mt. Sinai, where they have been running the World Trade Center Health Registry, and how are you going to work with these existing registries to target the population, to tailor the population to make sure those people, like where are your getting the people from, and also are you aiming at hospitals that have been doing this all along?

Branche:  There is no target and there is no limits. We are encouraging every entity that believes they sit within our fairly broad range of eligibility issues to apply for these funds and we will be assessing the quality of those. Please understand that there may be just one entity selected, but we could select up to three.

Farinacci: And just to follow up, are you going to be working with the city to target specific, because you keep mentioning students, and residents, you know, non-responders. Is that coming from the World Trade Center Registry, the city’s Department of Health?

Branche:  I see what you are saying. Forgive me for not answering that part of your question. The target population – we are actually asking the applicants to define who they believe would be the appropriate target population. So we are trying specifically not to be prescriptive about who that target population is. I kept mentioning those three groups – students, people from the community and others, because that was the language that we received from Congress. We really are being open about who the applicants judge to be appropriate to receive these funds, rather, the services that these funds support.

Nowak: Thank you, next question.

OPERATOR: Ok, the next question is from Devlin Barrett of Associated Press, Washington, D. C. Your line is open.

Barrett:  Hi. There still seems to be some concern among New York officials as to the departure of  Dr. Howard. Could you explain in a little more detail how that decision was made, and what is the new direction you are trying to go in?

Nowak: Devlin, this is Glen Nowak. This press conference is about the grant program, so we are not going to be entertaining calls about personnel issues. If you want to give us a call, we will be happy to talk to you offline. Next question.

OPERATOR:The next question is from Will Dunham from Reuters. Your line is open.

Dunham: This is Will Dunham with Reuters in Washington. Can you give us a better idea of how many people we think might be at issue here? Do you have any idea – is it in the thousands? Hundreds? Tens of thousands? And can youalso talk little bit more about  what health problems we are potentially talking about?

BRANCHE:  The population estimate that we heard, that we understand to be the affected by the attacks on the World Trade Center is up to 500,000 people. But of course, that includes the worker population who we have addressed through other funding mechanisms. I’m sorry, you had another part to your question, and I think I may have missed that.

DUNHAM: The other question was could you amplify on what kind of health problems we are talking about?

BRANCHE:  Actually, just like we are for the target populations, we are asking the grant applicants to define the health conditions they believe are most important to the people in this area.  So again, this is another area where we are deliberately trying to not be prescriptive about the health conditions they believe might be important.

NOWAK: Next question.

OPERATOR: Again, if you would like to ask a question, please press star one. I am showing no questions at this time.

NOWAK: OK. Thank you, and if people do have questions they can contact CDC Media Relations office at (404) 639-3286.  Thank you for joining us today.

END

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