(BrightPress.org) – Post-pandemic budget cuts are causing headaches for state health organizations that were dependent on federal funding for specific positions within their agencies. For example, local health departments employ disease-intervention specialists who are trained social workers that locate individuals in need of medical care and help connect them with the resources they require to stay healthy.
In Texas, one health department was notified that a pregnant woman needed syphilis treatment to avoid severe outcomes that could include the death of the child. A disease intervention specialist went to work and was able to locate the woman and help her get the necessary treatment. Their value to the community is difficult to quantify, according to the director of that agency.
He explained that these individuals are specially trained rare birds willing to go door to door, speak with people, and get involved directly in facilitating their care. Major budget cuts to the CDC as a result of budget negotiations in Congress last month slashed $1.5 billion from its budget, including a grant that covers the salaries of these specialists.
The health department in Texas was anticipating five years of funding and hired four new specialists as a result and now has to face the possibility of letting them go after investing months in training. The director spoke anonymously due to not having told his employees about the cuts. While the federal agencies are still working through the accounting, the expenditures were all authorized under supplemental pandemic funding which has expired due to the end of the pandemic.
Janet Hamilton is a public health expert who called the situation “a boom and bust cycle” of public health funding. She said that the impact is already hitting STI prevention and vaccine reporting. Kindergarteners have seen rates of vaccine compliance drop for 2 years in a row, from 94 to 92% for the 2019-2021 period. The sheer volume of vaccines for kids up to six years old has increased dramatically over the decades, with CDC now recommending dozens of shots some of which require 3-5 individual injections, and others, like the flu vaccine, which are now recommended annually.
No one knows what impact these budget cuts will have on public health over the long term, but the same could be said about endless federal spending leading to tens of trillions in national debt.
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