A letter I received from NACCHO (National Association of County and City Health Officials) this week gave more of an insight to the across-the-board cuts in federal discretionary spending or sequestration. The resulting cuts to local and state health department services will put the health, education, safety and security of all of us at risk.
The letter states that since 2008 local health departments have already eliminated 40,000 jobs due to budget cuts. With the magnitude of these cuts over the last four years local health departments may no longer be able to prepare for or respond to emergencies or provide basic services that people count on.
It is slated that CDC (Centers for Disease Control) will be cut approximately $350 million over the next six months. Two-thirds of the CDC’s funding goes to state and local health departments and other community partners. These cuts could range as high as $230 million. If these cuts occur, the following is a reality: 540,000 fewer doses of vaccine against hepatitis, flu, measles, and whooping cough; 25,000 fewer breast and cervical cancer screenings for low-income, high-risk women, 400,000 fewer HIV tests; up to 2,100 fewer food inspections; and a cut of $48 million in funds to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies like disease outbreaks, tornadoes, wildfires, and flood loss.
Stop and think. There are 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, so that equals 920 thousand dollars, per state, that will no longer be available to help with disease, tornadoes, fires or floods. What would this do if an F4 tornado would hit in Kansas? What amount of money was given to Chapman, Greensburg or Harveyville to help recover from their disasters? With decreased amounts of vaccine available what would happen if a flu epidemic would reoccur? With the lack of availability of vaccine, diseases that are now controlled will once again be on the rise and put our children at risk. This is just food for thought as these cuts will affect us as well as other communities in the United States. I have not even touched on the cuts slated for education, elderly programs or even farm programs.
It is a sad day when the leaders we have chosen to represent us are more interested in the “politics” of the country than in the welfare of its programs and citizens. The sustainability of vital programs that keep our children and families safe in communities across the nations is being put in grave danger of no longer existing.
These cuts will affect Cloud County and all of us as citizens. This is something all of us need to think about, the next time we have the opportunity to vote. For now, let’s hope that Kansas Department of Health and Environment, NACCHO and KALHD (Kansas Association of Local Health Departments) can assist with teaching our legislators the importance of these programs.
Diana Gering, Administrator
Cloud County Health Dept.