WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — America’s public health system has come under scrutiny for the way it handled its early response to the pandemic. Critics accuse that response of being ill-prepared, in part, because of a lack of funding.
That underfunding is being described as chronic in a recent report which claims it weakened the country’s COVID-19 response. But the report also claims we can learn from it to build a stronger public health system
The new report by the non-profit, non-partisan health policy organization Trust For America’s Health called The Impact of Chronic Underfunding on America`s Public Health System: Trends, Risks, and Recommendations, 2021.
It measures the gap in funding and the need across the U.S. The report puts a dollar figure to that federal funding gap of about $4.5 million, Matt McKillop, Senior Health Policy Researcher & Analyst, Trust For America’s Health told Eyewitness News.
Why so much despite a CDC 2021 fiscal year budget of $7.8 billion? McKillop says it’s the result of a public health system hollowed out by years of underfunding which contributed to the nation’s flat-footed response to the pandemic’s onset.
“Agencies at every level didn’t have systems that were modern enough, current, found themselves using outdated ways of transmitting information.”
The report finds the COVID crisis overwhelmed a public health system already struggling financially to provide resources to everything from weather-related emergencies to the rising number of drug overdoses and suicides. McKillop says issues including increasing rates of obesity and chronic diseases could be more effectively handled in Pennsylvania and other states by increasing spending on preventive measures.
“Not only will that make people healthier and help people to live healthier lives, it will reduce disparities we see by race, ethnicity, other factors,” said McKillop.
McKillop also says the needs of America’s public health system must be evaluated annually to prevent a repeat of 2020.
“Drive more funding and more investment towards our public health agencies at every level so that when we enter and emergency like COVID-19 the infrastructure, core elements at these agencies are strong so that they’re ready to go right off the bat.”
Pennsylvania is one of only seven states which did not maintain or increase public health funding in fiscal year 2020.