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House-passed stimulus bill includes pandemic funding

January 29, 2009
by Lisa Schnirring and Robert Roos
CIDRAP News

Yesterday the US House of Representatives passed an $819 billion economic stimulus bill that included funding for pandemic influenza and bioterrorism countermeasures, and now the Senate will debate its version of the measure, which also includes spending on some of the same items.

The House bill includes $900 million for biomedical advanced research and development, pandemic flu, and cyber security to help the nation better prevent or respond to a natural or man-made biological threat, according to a Jan 15 statement from Trust for America's Health (TFAH), a nonprofit health advocacy group in Washington, DC.

The House plan also includes $3 billion for disease prevention, including funding for state and local health departments and immunization programs, and $20 billion for health information technology.

Jeff Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH, said in the statement, "This is an unprecedented one-time investment in public health." In 2008, a TFAH expert panel reported that the country faces annual $20 billion shortfalls in critical public health program funding across state, local, and federal levels.

On Jan 27 TFAH released a statement applauding the Senate Appropriations Committee for including $16 billion for public health in its version of the stimulus bill. "This funding is desperately needed to revitalize and modernize the country's ailing public health system, and we'll be putting more Americans to work in programs that will directly improve the health of communities where they live," Levi said.

The Senate bill includes $870 million to complete funding for the nation's pandemic influenza plan. It also includes $5.8 billion for prevention and wellness efforts, including $600 million to boost the healthcare, and $5 billion toward the modernization of health information technology.

TFAH said the Senate's stimulus bill includes funding to modernize the nation's capacity to respond to a pandemic outbreak, along with equipment and medications to detect, contain, and treat pandemic influenza.

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