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Press Release

For Immediate Release: November 12, 2014

TFAH’s Statement on the Administration’s Request for $6 Billion to Fight Ebola and the Senate Committee on Appropriations Hearing on Ebola

Washington, DC, November 12, 2014 – The Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) strongly supports President Obama’s request for $6.18 billion dollars to fight Ebola.

For today’s U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations hearing on Ebola, Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH, provided outside witness testimony in support of the request, especially the funds that will go to building long-term public health capacity in West Africa, state and local public health departments, the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) and hospital preparedness. The below is a statement from Levi.

TFAH enthusiastically backs the Administration’s request for emergency funding for worldwide Ebola response efforts.  From underfunded local and state health departments to the country’s Strategic National Stockpile to international capacity building, these funds are essential to containing the epidemic in West Africa and bolstering U.S. readiness for future cases of Ebola.

Infectious disease control requires constant vigilance, which is why public health needs both emergency and ongoing funding. Quite simply, we will never have a reliable public health system if it is constantly scrambling from crisis to crisis and from emergency funding stream to emergency funding stream with no continuity.

After 2001, there was a strong investment in preparedness. But, over the past several years, the nation has begun to let our guard down. We have seen consistent cuts to the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) grants and failure to replenish the SNS— a national repository of antibiotics, chemical antidotes and other medicines and medical supplies. 

On the healthcare side, there have been major cuts in the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP), and, as noted in the Ebola response, a failure to practice good infection control on a daily basis and to train for more serious threats. Without investments in the foundational capabilities of public health, we see quite clearly that our public health system cannot respond to an outbreak.

It’s long been said, but it bears repeating: Emergency preparedness cannot be built overnight. While you may be able to stockpile supplies relatively quickly, you cannot train people and keep them trained the minute a disease reaches our shores.

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) have reported more than 50,000 state and local public health job cuts since 2008, and almost all health departments have reported job losses and/or program cuts. NACCHO found that local health departments have cut programs in epidemiology and surveillance, food safety and immunization, all of which impact preparedness for infectious disease outbreaks—which cost the country $120 billion each year.

For these reasons and many others, Congress should approve the President’s request immediately. And, because these are one-time, emergency funds, they should not be subject to the caps in the Budget Control Act. TFAH also recommends:

  • Consistent, reliable funding. While supplemental funds are imperative, providing an infusion of funding one year followed by a drastic cut the next means health departments are almost immediately back to square one, with less personnel and less training. 
  • Restoring annual funding for the CDC’s State and Local Preparedness Capacity to $824 million—the level authorized in the 2006 Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act. 
  • Investing in and sustaining the core capacities of public health at all levels – including within CDC – to ensure we are ready for the next outbreak—such as MERS-CoV, pandemic flu strains, Marburg, Chikungunya and Enterovirus D68.
  • Annual HPP funding should be restored to $474 million—the level authorized in the 2006 Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act—to strengthen the program and provide increased assistance too healthcare coalitions. 
  • Strong ongoing and emergency support for the SNS, as CDC and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advisory groups have publicly said that the stockpile will not be sufficiently restocked as a result of budget cuts.

We’re not talking about funding for extra bells and whistles. We’re talking about investing in maintaining core, foundational capabilities so the country can have an effective 24/7 approach to infectious disease threats.

Ebola will not be the last or most deadly infectious disease outbreak in America. In the public health world, we know that nature regularly reminds us of the hubris of ignoring infectious diseases. The only way to prepare for the next unknown outbreak is to consistently support public health and healthcare systems. The Ebola response shows what happens when complacency sets in.” 

 

Trust for America’s Health is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority.www.healthyamericans.org.

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Contact

Media Contacts: Albert Lang (202) 223-9870 x 21 or alang@tfah.org or Laura Segal (202) 223-9870 x 27 or lsegal@tfah.org