Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 21:20 EDT

Cuts to the Prevention Fund Will Have Severely Negative Public Health Consequences

February 16, 2012

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) is deeply disappointed to see that the Prevention and Public Health Fund was cut by $5 billion over the next several years to partially pay for extending unemployment benefits and fixing Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). While we recognize the importance of these policies, unless we control the costs of health care through proven public health prevention programs, which result in a healthier and more productive workforce, we will not lessen the burden of health care costs on our nation’s economy.

“We appreciate the efforts of many members of Congress who strongly opposed this cut, and regret that they ultimately were not successful in these negotiations,” says ASTHO Executive Director Paul E. Jarris, M.D., MBA. “We will continue to work with Congress and the administration to stress the importance of supporting public health prevention programs that will improve the health of our population, save lives, lead to a more productive economy, and reduce federal and private health care expenditures.”

Prevention programs are imperative to controlling the exploding growth in health care treatment costs–including those to Medicaid, Medicare, and private health insurance. For every dollar spent on childhood immunizations, Americans save $16 in costs to treat preventable illness. For every dollar spent on preconception care programs for women with diabetes, Americans save $5.19 by preventing costly complications for mothers and their babies.

Yet, of the more than $1.7 trillion in healthcare spent nationally every year, less than four cents out of every dollar are spent on prevention and public health. The result is tens of millions of Americans suffering from preventable diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Today’s children are in danger of becoming the first generation to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents.

The Prevention and Public Health Fund was established to avoid that fate. Federal investment from the Prevention Fund has helped states initiate programs that are proven to improve the health of its citizens, including immunization programs, tobacco cessation programs, and community disease prevention and health promotion. In addition, states use Prevention Funds to improve laboratory capabilities to track and respond rapidly to infectious disease outbreaks, foodborne illnesses, and healthcare-related infections.

State budgets have not recovered from the recession; they will not be able to replace this funding. Already since 2008, more than 50,000 state and local public health jobs have been lost–that’s 22 percent of local public health jobs and 16 percent of the state public health workforce. There is no more efficiency to be wrung from the public health system. State health agencies will be forced into no-win decisions about which programs to eliminate and which constituencies can no longer be served. The cuts to the Prevention Fund ensure all Americans lose.

ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. Territories, and the District of Columbia, as well as the 120,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to assuring excellence in state-based public health practice.

SOURCE Association of State and Territorial Health Officials

Source: PR Newswire