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Press Releases - 9/10/07


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 09/10/07
Contact Becky Wexler
(301) 652-1558

 
FEDERAL CUTS THREATEN ADVANCES IN PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS

Washington, D.C. (September 10, 2007)—Federal funding received by local health departments for all-hazards emergency preparedness fell 20 percent last year, according to a new report by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). The report says that continued cuts in funding provided through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) threaten important, hard-won advances made in recent years in response planning to natural disasters, bio-terrorism events, emerging infectious diseases, and other public health emergencies.

The report, Federal Funding for Public Health Preparedness: Implications and Ongoing Issues for Local Health Departments, provides the first detailed account of the effects of reduced funding on local governments' improved abilities to protect communities during public health crises occurring on a nationwide, regional, or local scale.

"While local health departments are making emergency preparedness a top priority, federal funding is not keeping up with federal requirements," says Karen Smith, MD, MPH, chair of NACCHO's Public Health Emergency Preparedness committee. "In order to maintain the remarkable level of progress made by local health departments over recent years, they'll need adequate federal funding to help them hire qualified permanent staff and train and drill continuously so they can respond effectively to public health emergencies."

In the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the 2001 anthrax episode, most local health departments (LHDs) significantly increased their capacity to anticipate and respond to an array of public health emergencies, thanks in large part to increased support provided by the U.S. Congress through CDC, including the Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI). According to the report, the percentage of LHDs with a comprehensive emergency response plan rose from 20 percent in 2001 to more than 90 percent today and nearly all report improvements in preparedness. Now, funding cuts are affecting the ability of LHDs to implement these plans and to respond to the growing number of threats the agencies are expected to address, from weather disasters to a pandemic influenza outbreak to food poisoning to a local "dirty bomb."

The report finds that:

  • Due to federal funding cuts, 28 percent of LHDs reduced staff time on preparedness, 27 percent were forced to delay completion of preparedness plans, and 17 percent delayed or canceled workforce training.
  • Fifty-six percent of LHDs report that CDC funding is insufficient to meet grant requirements.
  • Forty percent have delayed or canceled acquisition of equipment and supplies.
  • Difficulty hiring needed qualified staff presents the greatest barrier to LHDs' preparedness efforts.

"All disasters occur in communities where we live, work and play," says Patrick Libbey, NACCHO's executive director. "As public health professionals, we're making great progress preparing our communities for worst-case scenarios, both natural and manmade, but our forward momentum is hampered by a lack of reliable and adequate federal support. Ultimately, everyone in America will pay the price if needs aren't met."

In FY 2002, CDC distributed $918 million to states, territories, and four large cities for all-hazards emergency public health preparedness, through cooperative agreements. In the next five years that funding declined by 27 percent, to $665 million in base funding for FY 2007. In FY 2004, when CRI was implemented to help selected metropolitan areas prepare for emergency mass distribution of antibiotics, 21 cities shared $27 million in funding. In FY 2007, $57 million is being divided among 72 designated cities. Between FY 2005 and 2006 alone, the size of the average CRI grant distributed to LHDs declined 29 percent, threatening vital preparations.

September is National Preparedness Month, a nationwide effort to encourage Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses and schools. Find out more about National Preparedness Month on NACCHO's web site: http://www.naccho.org/topics/emergency/NationalPreparednessMonth2007.cfm

A pdf version of the full report, Federal Funding for Public Health Preparedness: Implications and Ongoing Issues for Local Health Departments, is available here.

 
 

NACCHO is the national organization representing the nation's nearly 3,000 local health departments. These agencies work every day on the front lines to protect and promote the health of their communities. NACCHO develops resources and programs and promotes national policies that support effective local public health practice.

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Contacts

Becky Wexler
(301) 652-1558