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Sept. 1, 2005 While expressing concern for all of the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama who have been devastated by Hurricane Katrina and her aftermath, Congresswoman Donna M. Christensen, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus's Health Braintrust joined with CBC Chair Mel Watt, Congressman William Jefferson (LA-02), Congressman Bennie Thompson (MS-02), Arthur Davis (AL-07) Barbara Lee (CA-09), members of the CBC, and all other representatives of the affected states in expressing concern over the public health drama that is unfolding. "As a former public health official and family physician, and as a representative of the U.S. Virgin Islands which has survived the wrath of powerful hurricanes, I would like to first offer my prayers for all of the victims and to express specific concern for the poor communities that have been affected," Christensen said.
"The members of the Congressional Black Caucus stand ready to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina in any way we can," noted Congressman Melvin L. Watt (D-N.C.), CBC Chair. "Citizens of the impacted areas can be assured that the CBC will be working very closely with FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security and public health agencies to ensure that help and assistance is received to maintain public health and safety. While the entire country has been adversely impacted by the enormity of this tragedy, our strength, determination and faith in God ensure that we will endure."
"We have seen the unbelievable images that are coming across all of the major television networks and the faces of those who are hardest hit by this disaster are our constituencies," Christensen said. "They were probably the least likely to be able to evacuate and therefore are bearing the brunt of the aftermath. Thus, while our hearts and prayers go out to all of the men, women and children of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust is particularly concerned with the repercussions that Hurricane Katrina has had and will continue to have on the health outcomes in these three states," she continued.
"As a physician who practiced for more than two decades, I fully understand the detrimental impact that poverty has on health care and health outcomes. However, when the impact of Hurricane Katrina is factored into that equation, the threats to health becomes even greater," Christensen said.
Christensen said that she and the members of the Caucus and the Health Braintrust would be working to ensure that the health needs of those victimized by the hurricane will become a priority on the national health agenda. "I am pleased that the federal government has declared a public health disaster for the areas affected," she noted.
"Like my colleague Congresswoman Christensen, I too am encouraged that the federal government has quickly declared the affected regions as public health disaster areas. But the federal government must match its words with actions," said California Congresswoman Barbara Lee. "At this time of emergency, it is imperative that FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security and public health agencies coordinate their efforts and pay special attention to the prevention of diseases that thrive in these environments," she added.
"While the appropriate first response is safety and well-being, public health and its ramifications must not be far behind or the ripple effects to our communities and constituencies and all those victimized will be felt for a long time to come," Christensen concluded.
For More Information Contact: Monique C. Watson at (202) 226-7973 or Myra Dandridge at (202) 225-1510.