For the first time in six years, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have passed a joint budget resolution. While that may seem like progress on a deeply divided Capitol Hill, the measure signifies a nearly wholesale retreat for public health.

The Senate adopted the House-passed budget agreement Tuesday that cuts non-defense spending by nearly $500 billion over the next decade and increases military spending by nearly $40 billion next year. More significantly, it upholds mandatory cuts to domestic programs already included in the Budget Control Act of 2011, known as sequestration, and includes language to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“Strong advocacy to protect public health funding will be more important than ever.” — Donald Hoppert

“Cuts outlined in the agreement would devastate our nation’s public health and safety net system and would have a disproportionate impact on our nation’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of APHA, in a news release last week.

In addition to sharp reductions to nondefense discretionary programs such as education and environmental protection, the budget calls for massive cuts affecting an array of disease prevention and health promotion activities. It also calls for cuts to programs for low-income Americans that would threaten funding for programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

“The budget resolution lays out a blueprint to guide federal spending for the next fiscal year,” said Donald Hoppert, director of government relations at APHA. “While the resolution does not approve spending, it does set markers for debate around the 12 annual appropriations bills to come.

“Strong advocacy to protect public health funding will be more important than ever as we go forward,” Hoppert said.

To stay informed and be an advocate for public health, sign up for advocacy alerts from APHA.