The emergence of Zika is a cautionary tale of the inherent dangers with nationwide public health funding shortages. APHA called the fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services funding bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday a necessary step forward in the process, but bemoaned more cuts to federal public health agencies.

Specifically, the bill would reduce funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by $118 million, the Health Resources and Services Administration by nearly $35 million and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality by $10 million. Additionally, the bill continues to include language that would stifle federal gun violence research — continuing a 20-year trend – and fails to provide any additional funding for this critical research.

“We can’t expect to slow the spread of Zika, reduce health disparities or curb chronic disease when we continue to take money away from our nation’s leading prevention and health promotion agencies,” APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD, said in a news release. “Simply put, we need to increase — not decrease — investments in public health. The clock is ticking and lives are at stake.”

APHA did applaud two components of the bill. First, the bill does not include any new, harmful policy riders. Second, the bill includes increases to address antibiotic resistance and opioid abuse.

“It’s encouraging to see a bipartisan Labor-HHS spending bill pass the committee,” Benjamin said. “However this is not enough. We need Congress to restore the funding cuts to CDC, HRSA and AHRQ and further boost funding.

“We also need Congress working together to raise caps on nondefense discretionary programs. This is of utmost importance, because it empowers us to both prevent public health crises before they start and create a healthier, stronger nation.”

Visit APHA’s PHACT Campaign to understand the importance of public health funding.