Half of local health departments worry about cuts to Zika response funding

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A survey from the National Association of County and City Health Officials shows roughly half of local health departments expect cuts to their Public Health Emergency Preparedness funding to affect their emergency preparedness and Zika response ability, and many are concerned about how the redistribution of money will hinder the sustainability of preparedness programs.

Although the CDC has redirected federal funds to the nation's Zika response, some of the money came from the current fiscal year's state and local base PHEP grants, which means local health departments may see grant funds decrease by as much as 8.5 percent.

"When you weaken the local public health infrastructure, you weaken a community's ability to respond to emerging threats, natural disasters or any emergency," said LaMar Hasbrouck, MD, executive director of NACCHO. "Local health departments are rightfully concerned because their ability to respond after an emergency is directly related to their capacity and preparedness before the emergency."

All total, 349 emergency preparedness coordinators from local health departments completed the NACCHO survey. Based on the results, local health departments are most concerned about PHEP fund reprogramming affecting community preparedness, volunteer management and medical countermeasure dispensing. Staffing concerns — such as workforce reductions, hiring freezes furloughs and staff reassignments — also concern the survey participants.

"The survey results clearly show that, no matter how necessary it may be to reprogram funds for a specific emergency, it will have consequences on the overall preparedness and response capabilities of our nation's public health system," said James S. Blumenstock, chief program officer of health security for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. "All the more reason why we urge the administration and Congress to come together and swiftly provide needed resources to combat Zika, including restoration of the PHEP Cooperative Agreement funds."



More articles on Zika:
Puerto Rico's trash is piling up, making more room for the Zika mosquito
Children's National Health System launches program to advise pregnant mothers with Zika virus
States and territories can now apply to CDC for funds to fight Zika

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