Study: State Budget Cuts Threatening Emergency Preparedness Programs
Funding cuts to state health programs enacted during the recession are weakening recent progress in public health emergency preparedness, according to a recent report by Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
Improvements in Emergency Preparedness
The report notes that over the last decade, public health agencies have made improvements in:
- Bioterrorism efforts;
- Identification, containment and prevention of disease outbreaks; and
- Response to natural disasters.
However, the report found that:
- Since fiscal year 2005, federal funding for public health preparedness has fallen by 27%, when adjusted for inflation;
- 33 states and the District of Columbia reduced public health funding between FY 2009 and FY 2010, with 18 states cutting funding two years in a row; and
- In January 2010, 53% of local health departments reported that their main funding was reduced from the previous year, with 47% anticipating further reductions next year (Millman, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 12/14).
Jerome Hauer, CEO of the consulting firm Hauer Group, said the drop in financial support for emergency preparedness programs could undo earlier progress and make the U.S. more vulnerable to pandemics or biological weapons (Young, Bloomberg, 12/14).
Shortfalls in Emergency Preparedness
The report also found that emergency preparedness in the U.S. faces gaps in:
- Capacity for managing a surge in patients;
- Funding and infrastructure;
- Identifying and serving the most vulnerable residents;
- Maintaining a sufficient supply of public health workers; and
- Researching and developing vaccines and medications ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 12/14).
In addition, the report cited the electronic exchange of health information as a key area for improvement in public health preparedness.
Researchers found that:
- Seven state health departments are incapable of transmitting electronic health information to health care providers and community health centers; and
- 10 state health departments lack an electronic syndromic surveillance system to report and exchange data that precede certain diagnoses (Barr, Modern Healthcare, 12/14).
According to the report, California achieved nine out of 10 indicators for public health emergency preparedness.
The state did not attain the indicator for funding commitment because the study found that California did not maintain or increase funding for public health programs from FY 2008 through FY 2009. According to the study, California's public health funding fell by 8.5% over the two-year period.
The report noted that California was one of the 18 states that cut public health funding two years in a row.
In addition, the report gave California one of the lowest rankings in the U.S. for work force shortages in primary care, dental care, nursing and mental health care (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 12/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.