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Investing in Public Health is Good for Nevada

Update 11/3/17: Since this blog was posted, the House passed the “Continuing Community Health And Medical Professional Programs to Improve Our Nation, Increase National Gains, and Help Ensure Access for Little Ones, Toddlers, and Hopeful Youth by Keeping Insurance Delivery Stable Act of 2017” or the “CHAMPIONING HEALTHY KIDS Act”, using the same offset of the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) as in the original bill. The important health programs included in this Act should be extended, but not at the expense of other vital public health investments. Nevada could lose over $10 million from the PPHF between FY19-23, based on the amount currently proposed to use as an offset. The action now moves to the Senate, and advocates are hopeful a final agreement is reached with bipartisan offsets (that do not include PPHF) so these programs can be quickly reauthorized.

After letting Community Health Centers, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and other program funding expire on September 30, the House Energy and Commerce Committee recently marked up the Community Health And Medical Professionals Improve Our Nation (CHAMPION) Act of 2017. Unfortunately, this draft legislation would divert $6.35 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) to extend funding for community health centers, the National Health Service Corps, diabetes education, family-to-family information centers, and more. Cutting the PPHF by 57 percent over the next eight years (FY 2019-FY 2026) to offset the CHAMPION Act would severely impact the very programs this legislation seeks to support, and would cripple the CDC budget – affecting the people, departments, and advocates on the front lines when it comes to promoting health and preventing disease.

The CDC’s Immunization Program receives the largest single investment from the PPHF, eliminating a substantial portion would force Congress to replace the funding through the appropriations process. We’ve seen the adverse effect of this process as resources for discretionary programs are scarce, and programs such as immunizations already saw budget reductions earlier this year.

Prevention has a proven return on investment: Every $1 spent on prevention saves $5.60 in health spending; every $1 spent on childhood vaccines saves $16.50 in future health care costs. These dramatic cost-savings are just one of many reasons community based medical care and community prevention programs must work together to build healthy communities. The programs included in the CHAMPION Act should absolutely be extended, but not at the expense of other core public health programs such as lead poisoning prevention, smoking cessation, access to vaccines, and breastfeeding support.

With public health crises regularly occurring in our region —earthquakes, flooding, and wildfires to name a few — it is crucial Congress maintains its historic investment in public health. We believe redirecting $6.35 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Fund is counterproductive and will result in higher – rather than lower –societal and health care costs over the long term. Unfortunately, Nevada is ranked 51st for state-level spending on public health per-capita and cannot afford to lose this funding.

Because of the ACA, CHIP, Medicaid Expansion, and the PPHF, hundreds of thousands of Nevadans have received increased access to vaccines and other preventive health services; allowing us to become a healthier state. Keeping our communities healthy is everyone’s responsibility, and we must do whatever we can, working together, for the future of our children and of Nevada. We must invest appropriately in public health. Diverting PPHF funding to support the CHAMPION Act is a short-sighted action that would result in harm to Nevada and our children’s health.

Chuck Duarte, CEO
Community Health Alliance

Heidi Parker, Executive Director
Immunize Nevada

Kevin Dick, District Health Officer
Washoe County Health District