Recent budget cuts to the already-dwindling fund devoted to public health initiatives are resulting in “dire consequences” for many programs, health providers, and patients according to a new report issued by the Coalition for Health Funding (CHF). The report, entitled “Faces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Hurt America’s Health,” emphasizes the lasting and widespread impacts that the past budget cuts catalyzed and includes a call on Congress to stop the cuts and, instead, to invest in public health more vigorously.
The demand to Congress to end budget cuts is grounded in the findings outlined in the CHF report. Specifically, the CHF highlights what it calls “deep cuts to public health programs in recent years” that “undermine our ability to prevent and respond to a variety of health emergencies, from outbreaks of measles, Chikungunya, and MERS, to the steady drumbeat of school shootings at the hands of mentally ill gunmen, to an epidemic of heroin abuse.” A CHF press release also argues that Congressional cuts affect programs on state and local levels as well, as it describes such cuts resulting in slashes to the hot meal program for a large portion of the clients at Athens Community Council on Aging in Athens, Georgia, and threatened heart and stroke research projects funded by the National Institutes of Medicine at the Virginia Commonwealth University. In addition to the termination of programs, the CHF also focuses on the impacts these cuts have on health employment, as “budget cuts have forced the layoffs of more than 50,000 public health professionals who monitor and respond to virus outbreaks, immunize children and the elderly, inspect restaurants, and care for the indigent.”
“Just a tiny fraction of the federal budget goes toward supporting all of our nation’s public health needs—everything from preventing disease to keeping our food and drugs safe, to ensuring that Americans have access to primary care doctors,” the president of the CHF, Emily Holubowich, stated as she explained the current funding situation, “That small pot of money has faced huge cuts in recent years, many triggered simply because Congress couldn’t find a permanent solution to sequestration.” Advocates associated with the CHF were reported to have recently visited the Capital to brief congressional staff members on the effects of the cuts outlined in the report and to ask Congress to reverse this trend. The CHF represents over 90 public health advocacy organizations and works to “preserve and strengthen public health investment in the best interest of all Americans.”