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States’ Public Health Emergency Preparedness Impacted by Budget Cuts

As US counterterrorism authorities express growing concern over a biological terrorist attack and public health officials worry about emerging infectious diseases like the Ebola and Zika viruses, cuts to federal Public Health Emergency Preparedness Cooperative Agreement Funding – which provides support for states and localities to prepare for and respond to all types of disasters – has dropped from a high of $940 million in Fiscal Year 2002 to $651 million in FY 2016. Meanwhile, the Hospital Preparedness Program has been cut 50 percent from a high of $515 million in FY 2004 to $255 million in FY 2016.

That’s according to the report, Investing in America’s Health: A State-by-State Look at Public Health Funding and Key Health Facts, issued by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH).

TFAH said cuts in state and local funding caused 16 states to decrease their public health budgets from FY 2013-14 to FY 2014-15.

“Budgets in six states – Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio and Oklahoma -decreased for three or more years in a row,” TFAH said. “In FY 2014-15, the median state funding for public health was $33.50 per person – ranging from a low of $4.10 in Nevada to a high of $220.80 in West Virginia. The median per capita state spending in FY 2015 is around the same rate as in FY 2008 ($33.71), however, adjusting for inflation, this represents a cut of $1.2 billion.

“Stable, sufficient, dedicated funding should be provided to support public health emergencies and major disease outbreaks – so the country is not caught unprepared for threats ranging from Ebola to an act of bioterror – and is better equipped to reduce ongoing threats such as the flu, foodborne illnesses and measles,” TFAH said. “Currently, inadequate and fluctuating resources, along with sequestration and budget caps, have left gaps in the ability to quickly detect, diagnose, treat and contain the spread of illnesses.”

TFAH also said, “The first dollars of core funding should be used to assure that all Americans are protected by a set of foundational public health capabilities and services no matter where they live. For this to be accomplished, these capabilities must be fully funded, and funding should be tied to achieving and maintaining these capabilities.”

TFAH further found that national public health spending is still below pre-recession levels, and that, “Federal funding for public health has remained relatively level for years. The budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has decreased from a high of $7.07 billion in FY 2005, to $6.34 billion in FY 2016, approximately $600 million less than FY 2015 (adjusted for inflation). The amount of federal funding spent to prevent disease and improve health ranged significantly from state to state, with a per capita low of $15.99 in Indiana to a high of $53.06 in Alaska.  

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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