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Letter to Tom Harkin and Arlen Specter, Chairman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, Re: Investments in Public Health

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Letter to Tom Harkin and Arlen Specter, Chairman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, Re: Investments in Public Health

Senator Clinton Calls for Investments in Public Health

Decries President's Proposed Cuts to Key Program

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton led a bipartisan group of senators in calling for important investments in public health and decrying President Bush's proposed budget cuts. In a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, the lawmakers urged full funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Preventive Health and Health Services (PHHS) Block Grant Program, which helps fund vital state public health activities, including New York's Healthy Heart and Healthy Neighborhood programs. President Bush proposed eliminating the block grant program in his Fiscal Year 2009 budget.

"With the rising toll of chronic diseases such as diabetes and the constant threat of epidemics and health emergencies, giving our public health officials the tools they need must be a top priority. We should invest in strengthening our public health infrastructure not undercut our ability to respond to public health needs," Senator Clinton said.

Block Grant funds allow states to use dollars where they need them, and when they need them, in order to protect the public's health. In New York, the funding has been used for the Healthy Heart Program, which has increased physical activity among adults, and the Healthy Neighborhood Program, which helps to investigate and address environmental health hazards like lead poisoning in homes.

In states across the country, block grant funds support vital public health infrastructure through programs such as emergency preparedness and food-borne disease surveillance. Grants are used to address a wide range of health issues including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, physical activity, oral health, child car seat safety, residential fire deaths, food borne infections, and suicide prevention, as well as important health issues for which there is no other federal support, for underfunded public health priorities, and to respond to unanticipated public health emergencies, such as E. coli outbreaks or the appearance of the West Nile Virus. The grants are also the primary source of flexible funding that provides states the latitude to meet the health objectives outlined in Healthy People 2010, the national health promotion and disease prevention goals.

Senator Clinton has long advocated for increased funding for state public health programs, so that states can address their needs on a local level.

Full text of the Senators' letter follows.

The Honorable Tom Harkin
Chairman
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and
Human Services, Education
and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
D-184
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Arlen Specter
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and
Human Services, Education
and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
D-184
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Specter:

We write to request restoration of the funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Preventive Health and Health Services (PHHS) Block Grant Program to $131 million. This important program provides critical dollars to address a variety of public health issues in our respective states, and should be fully supported in the FY 2009 budget.

The PHHS Block Grant is one of very few grants that states may use to address their own unique health challenges in innovative ways. Many states have documented that investing Block Grant dollars results in improved health care outcomes and significant cost savings. The President's FY09 budget calls for the elimination of this program, citing the ability of states to use categorical grant funding to meet their health care needs. Categorical programs, however, do not allow states the flexibility to direct funding to a wide range of preventive health programs most appropriate for their population. Without the funds provided through the PHHS Block Grant, states will face restrictions that jeopardize the many initiatives currently funded through this program.

State and local health departments have used the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant to address issues such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, physical activity, oral health, child car seat safety, residential fire deaths, food borne infections, and suicide prevention. Block Grant funding is used to address important health issues for which there is no other federal support, for underfunded public health priorities, and to respond to unanticipated public health emergencies, such as E. coli outbreaks or the appearance of the West Nile Virus. In addition to these varied uses, the block grant is also the primary source of flexible funding that provides states the latitude to meet the health objectives outlined in Healthy People 2010, our national health promotion and disease prevention program.

Since 1982, PHHS Block Grants have been enhancing the ability of states to use the most effective tool we have in our health care system - prevention. In the decades since the program's inception, we have seen increasing evidence that prevention is the most cost-effective means to help people enhance their quality of life, yet our annual investment in prevention accounts for less than five percent of our health care costs. At a time when prevention demands even greater resources, we must not eliminate this program.

While we appreciate the difficult fiscal situation you will be facing when determining funding levels for FY09, we strongly believe that the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant program is a wise use of funds.

For those reasons, we respectfully request that you restore funding for the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant Program to $131 million. Thank you for your attention to our request. We look forward to working with you on this and other important public health issues in the future.


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