APHA says president's 2017 budget is mixed

Date: Feb 09 2016

Contact: Daniel Greenberg, 202-777-3913

President’s budget brings some important new investments, but public health remains underfunded, says APHA

Washington, D.C., Feb. 9, 2016 — The American Public Health Association voiced opposition to public health funding cuts outlined in President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget request.  While the request contained some new and improved public health safeguards, insufficient overall investments in key public health programs continue to threaten health promotion efforts.

The budget notably includes a decrease of $194 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes elimination of the Preventive Health Services Block Grant, along with cuts to the 317 immunization program, environmental health tracking program and the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health program. Additionally, the request would eliminate the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Area Health Education Centers program, which supports primary care, workforce diversity and health care quality training and improvement in underserved areas.

APHA is pleased with several important increases in the request, including CDC programs to bolster antibiotic resistance, fund gun violence prevention research and address prescription drug abuse; HRSA programs to improve family planning; and Food and Drug Administration programs to improve prevention-based food safety systems. Additionally, Obama’s $1.1 billion proposal for new mandatory funding to combat prescription opioid and heroin use also provides much-needed preventive services and treatment for people with opioid abuse disorders.

The total request for HRSA provided a slight increase from FY16, which underscores the importance of investing in essential health programs to improve access to care for medically vulnerable people. However, the more than $400 million in cuts to discretionary funding reflect current budget caps in place that make it impossible to make the needed investments.

“We welcome the administration’s efforts to tackle emerging health threats. But plain and simple, we’re going to need a strong and sustained investment in public health to create the healthiest nation in one generation,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, executive director of APHA. ”Unfortunately the tight caps under the Budget Control Act make it extremely difficult to adequately fund bedrock public health programs.”

While the request also includes increases to the Environmental Protection Agency’s local water programs, it does so at the expense of the agency’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which was significantly decreased. The fund supports a vital range of programs to upgrade water quality infrastructure.

“The public health crisis in Flint, Michigan, is just one reminder that our aging water infrastructure requires both short- and long-term solutions,” Benjamin said. “We applaud the new funding, but one water safety program shouldn’t come at the expense of another.

“Ultimately, we know that public health investments save lives and money. As always APHA looks forward to working with the administration and Congress to pass fiscal year 2017 spending bills that prioritize the public’s health.”

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The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We strengthen the profession of public health, share the latest research and information, promote best practices and advocate for public health issues and policies grounded in research. We are the only organization that combines a 140-plus year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Visit us at www.apha.org.