Report: ongoing funding cuts from all levels of government weaken public health infrastructure


ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated a lack of funding for the response of public health crises. One non-profit organization says the coronavirus response is a reason why the ongoing underfunding of public health is a problem.

For ten years the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) organization has monitored public health spending at the federal, state and local levels. They say in the last decade funding for the Centers for Disease Control’s public health preparedness and response programs alone has been cut by 50%, in its latest report.

An unfortunate pattern has emerged: as a nation, we pay attention to public health investment when there’s a crisis, often borrowing from existing public health budgets (money typically meant to address chronic illness) to pay for the emergency response before falling back into a pattern of underinvesting in public health. This robbing-from-Peter-to-pay-Paul approach has left the nation’s public health infrastructure on weak footing. 

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“If we don’t pay attention to the core funding that’s needed day in, day out, year in, year out, we underfund or cut what’s necessary to keep the public healthy,” says TFAH President, John Auerbach. “Then we find ourselves in a situation, often that could have been prevented, that is quite serious and when that occurs short term money is offered. Often in large amounts but it’s offered for a limited amount of time and just for one purpose.”

Auerbach says this is worrisome when it comes to policymaking. “What sometimes happens, after that is done is that policymakers say ‘gosh we spent a lot of money on that, so maybe we don’t need to invest in the future’ or we have to make up for the money that we already spent by tightening our belt,” he says. “This is pennywise and pound foolish.”

Digital Extra: President John Auerbach talks about TFHA reporting methodology

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