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Biosecur Bioterror. 2012 Dec;10(4):401-11. doi: 10.1089/bsp.2012.0041.

Public response to an anthrax attack: a multiethnic perspective.

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Harvard Opinion Research Program, Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The 2001 anthrax attacks emphasized the need to develop outreach that would more effectively support racial/ethnic minority populations during a bioterrorism incident. Given the importance of antibiotic prophylaxis in a future anthrax attack, it should be a priority to better support racial/ethnic minorities in mass dispensing programs. To examine the needs and perspectives of racial/ethnic minorities, this study used a nationally representative poll of 1,852 adults, including 1,240 whites, 261 African Americans, and 282 Hispanics. The poll examined public reactions to a ''worst-case scenario'' in which cases of inhalation anthrax are discovered without an identified source and the entire population of a city or town is asked to receive antibiotic prophylaxis within 48 hours. Findings suggest willingness across all racial/ethnic groups to comply with recommendations to seek prophylaxis at dispensing sites. However, findings also indicate possible barriers for racial/ethnic minorities, including greater concern about pill safety and multiple attacks as well as lesser knowledge about inhalation anthrax. Across all racial/ethnic groups, roughly half would prefer to receive antibiotics at mass dispensing sites rather than through the US Postal Service. People in racial/ethnic minority groups were more likely to say this preference stems from a desire to speak with staff or to exchange medication formulation or type. Findings suggest the need for tailored outreach to racial/ethnic minorities through, for example, emphasis on key messages and enhanced understandability in communications, increased staff for answering questions in relevant dispensing sites, and long-term trust building with racial/ethnic minority communities.

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