More Health Funding Needed for Prevention

The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), March 19, 2017 | Go to article overview

More Health Funding Needed for Prevention


EDITORIAL

If you want to discover a big reason why the United States leads the world in health care costs, follow the money. Treatment, facilities, equipment and workers represent a mountain of cash. Meanwhile, disease prevention is an eroding foothill, because public health services get short shrift.

A stunning 86 percent of health care spending goes to treating people with chronic ailments, which can last a year or two or a lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sustained policies and public education campaigns have reduced smoking, so we know prevention works. But obesity remains high. Diabetes, heart disease and some cancers are preventable, as are shorter-term conditions such as measles, mumps and the flu.

In this country, public health is left largely to the states. And in this state, it is left largely to counties. Cities used to chip in, but not after funding disappeared in the wake of Initiative 695 ($30 car tabs). Backfill from the state has been flat ever since and does not account for inflation. Tobacco settlement dollars, a logical funding source, were swept into the state's general fund.

From 1998 to 2008, Spokane County was able to keep funding for the Spokane Regional Health District at par, but funding has eroded since the recession. On a positive note, this has caused the agency to become more efficient, but that only goes so far. SRHD has had to rely on assistance from the Panhandle Health District in Idaho and Tacoma's health district during the mumps outbreak. …

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