In North Dakota communities, people are working toward disease prevention by limiting tobacco use, eating smarter and following screening and immunization schedules with the support of local public health professionals. Collectively, citizens tell us through surveys that they appreciate reminders and access offered by local public health agencies.
It is hard to believe that in a nation of caring people, prevention services like these for diseases such as early heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are not easily accessible 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 part of a healthy population requires funding to include preventive 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 ensure 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.
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 to 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 “sequester.” “Sequester” is part of the Budget Control Act and is the result of the failure of Congress to pass a balanced deficit reduction plan to cut $1.2 trillion over the next decade. It is critical that Congress pass a balanced plan that does not make additional cuts to non-defense 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.
The North Dakota Public Health Association asks Congress to work toward a bipartisan and balanced deficit reduction proposal that includes public health as a priority. Citizen health is dependent on it.
(Wanda Agnew is president of the North Dakota Public Health Association.)