Report: US public health and preparedness faces ‘chronic underfunding’

A report published by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) on Thursday reveals that “chronic underfunding” of emergency preparedness and prevention programs damaged the US COVID-19 response and is exacerbating inequity, putting Americans at risk.

Since 2002, inflation-adjusted funding for CDC Public Health Emergency Preparedness Programs has declined by 50%. Similarly, inflation-adjusted funding for the Health and Human Services (HHS) Hospital Preparedness Program has declined by nearly two-thirds, the report finds.

“As a nation, we spent $4.1 trillion on health in 2020, but only 5.4 percent of that spending targeted public health and prevention,” says TFAH.

While the number has doubled in the short-term during COVID-19, it’s “still grossly inadequate and likely to return to pre-pandemic levels.”

This is hurting low-income communities, communities of color, and older Americans or “populations that experience higher rates of chronic disease and have fewer resources to recover from an emergency,” TFAH says.

TFAH says that more investments are especially needed in public health infrastructure and workforce, in emergency preparedness (including immunization infrastructure and the impact of climate change), and in addressing social determinants of health and health across the lifespan.

BIO has been calling for more funding for public health infrastructure and preparedness, especially for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

More than $200 billion would be allotted in the HHS funding package for FY23 that is currently making its way through Capitol Hill aimed at enhancing public health infrastructure and preparation.

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