Project BioShield was formed because the United States government felt it needed to support the development of “medical countermeasures” such as vaccines, drugs, therapies, and diagnostic tools to help recover from possible chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks. Launched in 2004, the project will spend $5.6 billion over a 10-year period as part of a broader strategy to defend America against the threat of weapons of mass destruction.
At the halfway point, Project BioShield has accomplished the following, according to a GAO report:
- Supported the development of seven medical countermeasures, all against either anthrax, botulism, radiological/nuclear agents or smallpox.
- Given emergency authorization for the use of seven products (or uses of products) not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, all to combat either anthrax (two products) or H1N1 (five). One of the anthrax authorizations was in response to a military emergency.
A pair of Government Accountability Office reports evaluating the progress of ongoing post-Hurricane Katrina rebuilding efforts – one looking at mental health services for children (highlights, full report), the other at organizations providing primary health care (highlights, full report) – find that while federal grants have had an impact in both areas, there is still considerable work to be done.
In terms of mental health services for children, the GAO reports that progress has been made in recruiting and funding providers — school-based programs have been particularly successful – and in providing the transportation needed by children and families hoping to take advantage of such services. Obstacles include a lack of stable housing for many children and funding shortage looming on the horizon as many hurricane-related grants will dry up in 2010.
In 2007, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded Louisiana a $100 million grant targeted to restore primary care services to low-income populations. The state passed that money on to 25 outpatient providers in the greater New Orleans area. Most of those organizations, the GAO found, used that money to hire additional staff. Many also expanded the services they offered and added new sites or improved existing ones. The report does not come to a conclusion as to the long-term sustainability of the project.
Both GAO reports should serve as reminders that efforts to rebuild the Gulf Coast in the wake of Katrina are ongoing. The reviews show that the GAO hasn’t taken its eye off the affected areas, and neither should journalists.