State and Territorial Health Officials Gather in Washington, D.C. to Make the Case for Prevention and Public Health Programs
Washington, D.C. (March 8, 2017) — State and territorial health officials from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C. this week to ask Congress to sustain investments in public health and prevention programs regardless of actions to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). During a Capitol Hill briefing today and meetings with key White House and congressional leaders this week, members of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) said that the nation’s health is at risk if proposals to eliminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund do not specify a viable replacement.
“Federal funding for core state prevention and public health programs and services has existed for decades. Since its creation in 2010, the Prevention and Public Health Fund has invested $6 billion in preventive health services and core public health programs at the local, state, and federal levels,” says ASTHO Executive Director Michael Fraser. “Eliminating public health programs for community health needs, maternal and child health, cancer screenings, chronic disease prevention, and immunizations without a clear plan for replacement will seriously undermine our ability to effectively protect and promote health programs and guard against emerging public health threats.”
“We commonly associate roads and bridges, railways and airports with infrastructure, but public health is also part of our nation’s critical infrastructure,” adds Jay Butler, MD, ASTHO President and Chief Medical Officer at the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “Just as the federal interstate highway system promotes commerce between the states, a strong public health infrastructure assures a healthy and productive workforce across the nation. As Congress looks to reinforce our nation’s aging transportation infrastructure, we urge similar efforts to improve and upgrade our nation’s public health system.”
ASTHO’s health care infrastructure concerns stem from the fact that many local water systems are rapidly deteriorating and environmental contamination threatens the availability of safe drinking water for millions of Americans. State and territorial public health agencies monitor the air and water safety and work across government to remediate environmental hazards. Critical public health laboratory, public health information systems, and epidemiology capacity are also part of our nation’s public health infrastructure.
In addition to making the case for prevention, state and territorial health officials discussed last year’s public health response to the Zika outbreak and plans for this year’s response, the need for continued support to address the opioid epidemic, and the nation’s need to include public health in proposals to improve the nation’s aging infrastructure.
In fiscal year 2016, Congress allocated $932 million from the Prevention and Public Health Fund to programs across multiple federal health agencies, providing the bulk of funding for health programs affecting millions of Americans.
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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 more than 100,000 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 ensuring excellence in state-based public health practice. For more information visit the ASTHO’s website at http://www.astho.org/.