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ACP Warns of Looming Public Health Crisis

MedPageToday, 2012

NEW ORLEANS -- With government investment in public health flagging in recent years, and an axe poised over federal spending, the American College of Physicians (ACP) warned that a crisis is in the making.
public health infrastructure, which officials said faces "a grave threat" from federal, state, and local budget cuts.
In recognition of "the tight budget environment," the ACP said public health programs must focus on programs proven to be effective and must avoid duplication of effort.
Among them should be a renewed emphasis on vaccinations and greater effort to resolve and prevent vaccine and pharmaceutical shortages, according to a policy paper released here at the ACP's annual meeting.
At a press briefing, Robert Doherty, ACP senior vice president for governmental affairs and public policy, said that the federal government will soon have to implement across-the-board 7.5% budget cuts, resulting from the failure on the part of a to reach an agreement earlier this year.
Public health activities in the FDA, CDC, USDA, and other agencies are unlikely to be spared, he said.
Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, health commissioner for the city of New Orleans, said her department had lost 43% of its funding in the past 2years.
"You reach a point where you can't keep doing the same with less 00 you're going to do less with less," she said.
The ACP's seven policy positions on public health are as follows: Invest in the nation's public health infrastructure at all levels Prioritize public health spending on programs with the greatest need and the greatest potential benefit Educate and train an adequate public health workforce including physicians, nurses, researchers, lab techs, and other professionals Educate the public on new healthcare delivery models and the importance of primary care and the
Coordinate between the federal government and pharmaceutical companies to avert or minimize shortages of critical drugs and vaccines Inform the public on the importance of vaccinations for children, adolescents, and adults Develop a nationwide public health informatics structure accessible to all stakeholders
The group also identified some specific efforts that have proven effective in the past, and should be maintained or expanded in spite of budget constraints: Funding safety-net hospitals and local health departments Reducing healthcare disparities Encouraging healthy habits, including diet, exercise, and smoking cessation and avoidance Reducing illnesses related to environmental hazards such as pollution and climate change Educating clinicians and the public on disaster preparedness Reducing illnesses Preventing and treating substance abuse illnesses Providing care for mentally ill prison inmates Preventing injuries and deaths from violence