How did the city deal with the health needs of 9/11 survivors?

Fourteen years ago, the Twin Towers were brought down in the worst terrorist attack on US soil. As the dust settled, we began to learn about who died, and how. Sixteen years later, we can …

Fourteen years ago, the Twin Towers were brought down in the worst terrorist attack on US soil. As the dust settled, we began to learn about who died, and how. Sixteen years later, we can now see that more than 1,000 individuals were exposed to or suffered from 9/11 health consequences and a number were permanently injured.

During the early part of the decade, doctors did not collect detailed information on their patient’s health, including illnesses associated with exposure to smoke and dust. But our collective memories of 9/11 changed that. New York, New Jersey and the surrounding areas needed to have their overall health addressed, including health problems like cancer and respiratory issues.

Our report focused on four Twin Towers rescuers. Together, the community has formed support groups and what are called first responders for health monitoring.

Since September 11, we have not only learned about the health consequences of 9/11, but that more than 22,000 New Yorkers sustained significant injuries from the terror attacks. Without the support and resources of 9/11 survivors and the health care system, we could not have addressed the problems posed by that tragedy.

Sixty-three percent of New Yorkers who were exposed to the attacks had no insurance or had insufficient coverage. Unmet financial demands for care by those who lived, worked or visited the area that was impacted forced many survivors into bankruptcy. Now, hundreds of people in need of help have an opportunity with the creation of a medical assistance program under the American Medical Assistance Program.

In addition to our report, a rigorous national analysis of the impact of 9/11 on public health was conducted by the New York City Department of Health. The 2011 findings reflect a broad spectrum of health issues, both acute and chronic, including serious exposures to toxic materials, stress, shock, chronic fatigue and trauma.

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