Budget Proposal Promises Some Gains for Public Health: Food Safety Work to Be Strengthened

Article excerpt

President Barack Obama in February unveiled a 2011 federal budget proposal that promises to advance health information technology, protect food safety and crack down on fraud, waste and abuse in the nation's health system.

"Moving from recession to recovery, and ultimately to prosperity, remains at the heart of my administration's efforts," Obama said in his budget message.

The overall 2011 U.S. budget is reported to total $3.8 trillion in spending, of which $911 billion would go to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an increase of $51 billion over fiscal year 2010. The proposal includes a total funding level of $10.6 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which reflects an increase of $101 million above fiscal year 2010 funding levels.

Despite these numbers, some health organizations, including APHA, say the budget proposal falls short in some key areas, such as adequately investing in the nation's public health infrastructure and providing sufficient funds for CDC.

"We are pleased to see increases to strengthen food safety initiatives, expand community health centers and improve global health, including protecting against the spread of infectious disease and other public health threats," said APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E).

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However, a greater investment in community-based prevention and in CDC's core public health programs "could pay dividends in better health and quality of life for generations to come," Benjamin said.

Under the CDC proposal, some of the agency's core programs could lose more than $130 million when compared to the fiscal year 2010 budget, according to analyses by some health advocates. For example, CDC's efforts on environmental health and injury prevention would receive a nearly $6 million cut, while the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant, which states depend on to design community-specific prevention and promotion programs, would be funded at the 2010 level.

"Public health departments are as critical a piece of the nation's infrastructure as roads and bridges," said Paul Jarris, MD, MBA, executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. "If the United States is to safeguard the health and vitality of its people, investments in public health, as in all aspects of our infrastructure, are needed."

On the positive side, the president recommended a funding increase of $16 million, for a total of $352 million, for CDC to build global public health capacity by strengthening the global public health work force, integrating maternal, newborn and child health programs, and improving global access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene.

Also under the proposed budget, CDC and the Health Resources and Services Administration would receive more than $3 billion--an increase of $70 million--to enhance HIV/ AIDS prevention, care and treatment. …