HIV/AIDS is no longer considered a death sentence, fewer people are using tobacco and more sidewalks and bike lanes are paving the way to increased physical activity in communities across the country – all thanks to public health measures made possible by important federal funding.
A U.S. Senate committee aims to continue momentum on these successes by approving its Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill today. The spending bill would fund $7.023 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and $6.365 billion for the Health Resources and Services Administration to support proven community-based health programs that are critical to saving lives and reducing health care costs.
Widely welcomed by health advocates, the proposal, however, does not reflect sequestration. The automatic cost-reduction measure is expected to make annual across-the-board budget cuts of up to 8 percent through 2021. The fiscal year 2014 spending bill could be largely symbolic if Congress fails to find a balanced deficit reduction solution to end sequestration. The Senate version represents a 25 percent funding increase compared with the proposed House appropriations measure.
“We have made tremendous improvements to our nation’s overall health thanks to vital public health measures that help prevent disease and promote health,” said Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of APHA. “Yet, we stand to lose ground on these important gains if we do not adequately and consistently support our nation’s public health system. In the end, unless Congress adequately funds public health, we threaten to stall progress we’re making in curbing rates of our nation’s most feared diseases and keeping people safe.”
“We must focus on reducing our public debt but we need to do it in a balanced way. Yes, we do need to make balanced cuts. But at the same time we have to look at other areas for [cuts],” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski .
Mikulski, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, heralded the tremendous strides made recently in medical research at the National Institutes of Health and important early childhood education programs made possible by federal investments but implored Senate colleagues to find additional revenue and unnecessary spending in other agencies that drive up the debt.
The spending bill next moves to the full Senate for a vote.