Economy could imperil state readiness

December 16, 2008
by Pamela M. Prah

Budget cuts could undermine the progress states have made to respond to public health emergencies and natural disasters, such as the recent wildfires in California and outbreaks of Salmonella on tainted vegetables that sickened more than 1, 440 people in 43 states, says a new report released Dec. 9. 

The report, "Ready or Not? Protecting the Public's Health from Diseases Disasters and Bioterrorism," faulted the federal government for reducing disaster preparedness funds for states and localities by one-fourth from levels of 2005. 

"The 25 percent cut in federal support to protect Americans from diseases, disasters and bioterrorism is already hurting state response capabilities," said Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health, which along with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released the report.  

States, for example, are no longer receiving any supplemental funding for pandemic flu preparedness, despite increased responsibilities, the report said.

The Trust is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that has received funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts, which also funds, for other projects, but not this report. 

The groups also warned that future state budget cuts could imperil public safety following a year in which 11 states have already cut their public health budgets. "The cuts to state budgets in the next few years could lead to a disaster for the nation's disaster preparedness," Levi said in a statement.

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