Wanda Agnew, Bismarck, column: Budget puts public health programs at riskUnless Congress acts before the end of the year, public health programs face across-the-board cuts of roughly 8.2 percent because of the sequester expected to take effect in January.
By: Wanda Agnew,
By Wanda Agnew
BISMARCK — In communities across North Dakota, people are working to prevent disease by limiting tobacco use, eating smarter and following screening and immunization schedules with the support of local public health professionals.
Collectively, residents tell us through surveys that they appreciate reminders and access offered by local public health agencies.
It’s hard to believe that in a nation of caring people, prevention services relating to messaging and disease-screening are not easily accessible to all because funding is not adequate or consistent.
Public health systems are impacted by the national budget. Money alone does not ensure health, but a critical piece of a healthy population requires funding to include preventative services versus programs to pay for sick-care.
A successful public health system is designed to promote and protect as well as provide. Proper public health programs make sure that the water we drink, food we eat and air we breathe are safe.
A healthy future depends on a properly equipped public health infrastructure for all North Dakota cities, counties and Indian reservations. Unfortunately, our current system is a patchwork of inconsistent services, programs and regulatory authorities that is neither designed for optimal performance nor funded for sustainability.
According the American Public Health Association, a new White House report indicates unless Congress acts before the end of the year, public health programs face across-the-board cuts of roughly 8.2 percent because of the sequester expected to take effect in January.
The sequester is part of the Budget Control Act and is the result of Congress’ failure to pass a balanced deficit reduction plan to cut $1.2 trillion over the next decade.
It’s critical that Congress pass a balanced plan that does not make additional cuts to nondefense discretionary programs, which includes public health funding and other important services impacting people.
The message for North Dakota’s congressional delegation is clear: The long-term health consequences, including costs, will far outweigh the short-term savings. Research shows how vital this is: For every $1 invested in proven community-based public health programs, $5.60 is saved, according to Trust for America’s Health.
America needs a strategic investment in public health funding that will support life-saving programs and services that have long been underfunded in most states, including North Dakota.
It’s time to act on what we know is the right thing to do. The North Dakota Public Health Association asks Congress to work toward a bipartisan and balanced deficit reduction proposal, one that includes public health as a priority. Citizen health depends on it.
Agnew is president of the North Dakota Public Health Association.