Bioterrorism Readiness Hurt by Cuts in State Health Programs, Study Finds
December 14, 2010
by Jeffrey Young
Shrinking budgets for U.S. state health programs are endangering the nation’s ability to confront epidemics and bioterrorism, according to a report.
Cuts in federal and state spending threaten improvements for coping with outbreaks of illnesses such as influenza since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the study found. The Trust for America's Health, a Washington-based nonprofit that advocates for disease prevention, and Princeton, New Jersey-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropy that finances health research, released the findings today.
Two-thirds of U.S. states -- 33 and the District of Columbia -- trimmed spending on emergency preparedness for public health in fiscal years 2008 through 2010 as the recession constrained budgets, the study found. The report doesn’t include a figure for total state spending on public health.
“If we don’t see this funding stream maintained, we are going to see the preparedness at the state and local level deteriorate,” Jerome Hauer, chief executive officer of the Hauer Group LLCconsulting firm in Alexandria, Virginia, said by telephone yesterday. “We’re going to wind up back where we started” before the 2001 attacks, he said.
Failure to keep government support for the programs will make the U.S. more vulnerable to a pandemic or attack with biological weapons, said Hauer, director of the New York Office of Emergency Management from 1996 to 2000 who wasn’t involved in the study. Public health budgets may not loosen when Republicans who campaigned to cut spending take control of the U.S. House next year, he said.
The federal government spent $1.19 billion on programs in fiscal 2010 to help states, municipalities and hospitals prepare for public health emergencies, a 16 percent decline from fiscal 2005, according to the report.
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