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Trust for America's Health Applauds Public Health Funding in Senate Stimulus Bill as Down Payment for Containing Health Care Costs

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Trust for America's Health (TFAH) applauds the Senate Appropriations Committee for including $16 billion in funding to improve the health of Americans while stimulating the economy in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"This funding is desperately needed to revitalize and modernize the country's ailing public health system, and we'll be putting more Americans to work in programs that will directly improve the health of communities where they live," said Jeff Levi, PhD, Executive Director of TFAH. "These investments will have wide and far reaching impact. In addition to the immediate stimulus of creating jobs, we'll be improving the productivity of our workforce and containing the skyrocketing cost of health care."

"Getting health care costs under control is critical for getting the country's economy back on track. Fundamental health care reform, particularly reform that focuses on ways to keep Americans healthier, must be part of solving our current financial crisis. The funding for public health and disease prevention in the stimulus bill is a down payment toward reducing health care costs over the long term," Levi continued.

Some disease prevention and public health preparedness highlights in the stimulus bill include:

  • $5.8 billion for prevention and wellness to fight preventable diseases and conditions. This includes more than $600 million to bolster the health workforce, $400 million for community prevention (healthy communities) programs, $750 million for immunization programs, $400 million for sexually transmitted disease prevention programs (including HIV/AIDS), $75 million for smoking and other tobacco use prevention programs, $60 million for prevention science research, $40 million for IT improvements at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and $15 million for newborn screening;
  • $870 million to complete funding for the national pandemic flu plan; and
  • $5 billion to jumpstart modernizing Health Information Technology.

The investment will create new jobs and help revitalize the infrastructure of state, local, and community-based programs aimed at reducing rates of disease, such as providing increased access to affordable nutritious foods and increasing immunization efforts. At the same time, these programs can help reduce health care costs. In 2008, TFAH recently released Prevention for a Healthier America, a study that found that for every $1 spent on proven community-based disease prevention programs, the country could net a return of $5.60 in health care costs within five years.

The bill also provides funding to stimulate research, development, and implementation of technology to modernize the nation's ability to respond to a potential pandemic flu outbreak, including equipment and medications needed to detect, contain, and treat pandemic flu.

The investment in improving health information technology (HIT) could also lead to advancements in epidemiological research, making it easier to investigate the causes and cures of diseases and detect new infectious outbreaks.

A range of analyses from authorities ranging from the Institute of Medicine to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have concluded that America's public health system is "structurally weak in nearly every area." TFAH assembled an expert panel in 2008 which found the country currently faces a shortfall of $20 billion annually -- across state, local, and federal government -- in funding for critical public health programs in the U.S., based on research conducted by The New York Academy of Medicine and a panel of leading experts. Approximately $1 billion of this shortfall is due to cuts to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) budget from fiscal year 2005 levels.

Trust for America's Health is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority.

SOURCE Trust for America's Health
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