Dylan Scott is a GOVERNING staff writer.E-mail: email@example.com
Are local and state health agencies prepared for epidemics, natural disasters and acts of bioterrorism?
A study by Trust for America's Health (TFAH), a non-profit, nonpartisan think tank focused on disease prevention, revealed that many agencies have been targeted for budget cuts in recent years, potentially putting the public at a greater risk if a major health crisis occurs.
Their annual report, Ready or Not? 2011, was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Budget data was collected from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local public health departments.
The report concluded that preparedness programs could be dramatically reduced or completely eliminated if trends in federal budget cuts continue. Specifically, funding from Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) grants will have been reduced by $72 million from fiscal year 2010 to 2012, based on proposed cuts for 2012. TFAH's key findings state that:
In fiscal year 2011, 40 states and D.C. cut their public health funding, according to TFAH -- 29 (plus D.C.) for the second consecutive year and 15 for the third consecutive year. Federal support for state and local preparedness efforts has decreased by 38 percent from fiscal year 2005 to 2012, adjusted for inflation.
The study anticipates further reductions as part of the sequestration cuts following the congressional joint deficit reduction committee's failure to reach a deal to reduce the federal budget deficit. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that discretionary domestic spending will be cut by 7.8 percent under sequestration.
"If we have further reductions, I think it will have serious consequences for our ability to detect and respond to future public health events," Mel Kohn, state health officer for the Oregon Health Authority, said in a conference call with reporters.
TFAH offered a series of recommendations to federal, state and local policymakers at the conclusion of the report:
For more information about how specific states and localities are being affected, visit the TFAH website.
The map below marks the 51 cities that could be cut from the Cities Readiness Initiative in 2012.
View Cities Readiness Initiative Cuts in a full screen map