“We’re screwed on outbreaks like Zika as long as we have to rely on Congress for money”

“On Tuesday, the Senate once again failed to pass the $1.1 billion Zika funding package.
This is pathetic — but it’s also emblematic of how much the public health system depends on politics and how badly it needs financial independence from the political system…
there are more systemic reasons why much-needed public health money can get lost in political infighting, even in the face of a dangerous virus that’s spreading close to home. These have to do with how fragmented the public health system is.
“There are nearly 90,000 local governments in the US, and from the 10th Amendment, much of public health [authority] is reserved to the states,” Phillip Singer, a public health researcher at the University of Michigan, said. The states take many different approaches to handling public health, but one thing they have in common is that they’re chronically underfunded. The state public health workforces decreased by 4 percent between 2010 and 2013 alone.
“So we task states, counties, and cities to handle public health crises — but we don’t give them the money to be able to handle these things effectively,” Singer said…
“We’re in the middle of an unpredictable election season,” Singer observed, “so there’s little incentive for many Republicans who control the House and Senate to associate themselves with the spending measures at this time.” This is especially true for politicians from states in the northern part of the country, where the mosquitoes that carry the virus are uncommon or nonexistent and the threat of Zika is lower…
Klain, the former “Ebola czar,” has pointed out that right now there’s no equivalent to FEMA for health. So he’s been advocating for a new federal response agency to help us organize for and rapidly deploy in the event of a major epidemic.”
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