Ongoing cuts to federal public health emergency preparedness funds have negatively affected disease detection and response programs and emergency readiness at the state and local levels, according to the ninth annual “Ready or Not?” report, released today by Trust for America’s Health.
- More than two-thirds of the 72 cities in the Cities Readiness Initiative, which supports rapid emergency distribution of vaccines and medications, are at risk for elimination from the program.
- State labs with “Level 1” chemical testing status could lose top-level capabilities and others may lose experts who specialize in disease prevention and control.
- Potential cuts to the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would hamper federal and state response to nuclear, radiologic and chemical threats as well as natural disasters.
“We’re seeing a decade’s worth of progress eroding in front of our eyes,” said Jeff Levi, PhD, executive director of Trust for America’s Health. “Preparedness had been on an upward trajectory, but now some of the most elementary capabilities — including the ability to identify and contain outbreaks, provide vaccines and medications during emergencies, and treat people during mass traumas — are experiencing cuts in every state across the country.”
The federal cuts compound the already dire budget situation at the state and local levels where public health agencies have had to scale back programs and reduce their workforce. Some of which can no longer sustain a number of basic elements of preparedness, according to the report.
“The last few years have strained our already fragile public health system,” said Robert M. Pestronk, executive director of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, in a statement. “We’ve had an outbreak of a new flu strain, several unpredictable natural disasters and a global economic crisis that continues to affect all sectors of American society. Local health departments are part of a safety net for all people in their communities, but with a workforce already stretched thin, it’s only a matter of time before the net lets the unsuspecting through.”
The report, developed with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, recommends steps to improve America’s preparedness, including assuring dedicated funding and strengthening the public health preparedness core capabilities; improving biosurveillance to rapidly detect and track outbreaks or attacks; and providing better support to help communities cope with and recover from disasters.