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Press Release - 12/9/08

Contact Becky Wexler
(301) 652-1558

Statement of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) on Report by the Trust for America’s Health: “Ready or Not Protecting the Public’s Health from Disease, Disaster, and Bioterrorism”

Washington, DC (December 9, 2008)—
The Trust for America's Health (TFAH) report card on state readiness to respond to public health emergencies, issued today, sounds a warning that funding cuts threaten to undermine the strides in national preparedness made since 9/11. Although great progress has been made on both the state and local levels, ongoing budget cuts jeopardize the ability of our nation's first responders to protect the communities they serve.

Last month, NACCHO surveyed local health departments to learn how current economic conditions were affecting their budgets and workforce. The majority of respondents, from 46 states, reported adverse effects of budget cuts. Nationally, 27 percent of local health departments are working under a current budget that is less than the previous year, and 44 percent expect to do the same next year. Furthermore, among the nation's largest local health departments, 84 percent experienced workforce reductions in 2008, and 45 expect layoffs during 2009.

The nation's local health departments serve on the front lines of public health emergency response. Budget cuts and layoffs make it difficult for health departments to keep communities safe and prepared for inevitable public health crises. Preparedness is an ongoing commitment, and local health departments need consistent, sustained funding to ensure continuous improvement.

The first response to any public health emergency takes place locally. In order to ensure progress, local health departments must continue training our local workforce in preparedness and exercising their skills regularly in both real events and drills. We must continue engaging our community partners in both the private and public sectors, all of whom will have roles to play in disaster response. NACCHO shares TFAH's concern that the federal failure to sustain public health preparedness funding jeopardizes our progress.

NACCHO commends TFAH for compiling this useful information on state readiness and urges Congress and the Obama Administration to recognize that sustained federal funding and consistent federal expectations are essential to prepare the nation for public health emergencies. Upcoming fiscal stimulus legislation presents an opportunity both to save jobs and protect the public's health by giving local health departments additional aid. Diseases recognize neither state nor local boundaries, and every link in the local, state, and federal chain of protection must be strong.



Becky Wexler

(301) 652-1558