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Opinion: Funding uncertainty puts public health at risk

This news story was published on September 23, 2015.
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Brian Hanft, CG Health

Brian Hanft, CG Health

Nationwide, communities are changing the way they care for their health as public health efforts are equipping Americans with the tools and knowledge to take command of their health. Community designs that encourage physical activity, access to vaccines, plans for emergencies and programs that ensure easy access to healthy food options are all contributing to a framework that will help build the healthiest nation in one generation. However, our progress has become tenuous as we head down a path of disinvestment and unstable funding for these proven community-based health programs.

This past year, TIME identified the “Ebola fighter” as its Person of the Year. The threat of Ebola reminded us of the need to have in place quick-acting and prevention-focused public health plans, programs, and people. While leaders and communities responded quickly to limit the health impact on American communities, Ebola revealed weaknesses in our health system. It showcased the need for a coordinated infectious disease response that educates the public and underscores the importance of having a means to prevent the spread of infection. Even as our memory of the event fades, it is imperative that we do not forget these lessons and continue to consider the important role that public health plays in keeping Iowa communities safe and healthy.

Still, we’ve seen public health programs at the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Resources and Services Administration, and other public health agencies impacted by spending caps and austerity measures which limit our ability to carry out successful local and state efforts. Deep cuts to the federal and state budgets are routinely passed down to the community level requiring local taxpayer investment to maintain current programs. When this happens, it is increasingly more difficult to support new programs to keep pace with the evolving needs of our community. Further making local public health programs difficult to support… Our nation’s potential to thrive is undermined when communities are not healthy and well.

Funding for the public health system is critical to Americans’ health and results in millions of saved lives. The future of our nation’s health depends on a strong and properly equipped public health infrastructure at the local level — counties, cities, and towns across Iowa and the country.

It’s time that our nation’s health is made a priority. For Iowa’s members of Congress, the message is clear: Your commitment to investing in public health is fundamental to the success of people in Iowa in their pursuit of health, and to achieving a stronger and healthier nation.

Brian Hanft
Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health
Advocacy Committee, Iowa Public Health Association

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