Friday, February 6, 2009

Putting a face on public health

As our leaders debate the merits of the public health provisions in the economic stimulus bill, one wonders how best to make the case for this important funding.

Health departments, local coalitions, associations and people like you have been writing letters to elected officials, speaking with local media and doing everything they can to explain why investing in public health makes sense. We’ve highlighted how prevention will save money, how the funds will create jobs and how they will allow more people access to important public health services during these difficult economic times.

But this isn’t enough. Despite all the evidence in support of these provisions, they are still in danger of being stripped out of the Senate’s version of the bill. So we need a new approach. Perhaps the problem is that we haven’t succeeded in telling the story of public health – we haven’t given a face to the many lives touched by our work.

We need to share our stories with our leaders and our communities. Share how your clinic has been inundated with people who have lost their insurance and need to see a doctor, but you don’t have the funds to meet demand. Share how your public education campaign resulted in record high numbers of people getting their flu shots. Share how you finally quit smoking after your state required your work to go smoke-free.

Whatever your story, share it. If our elected leaders are able to hear the real-life stories of the lives improved through public health, we might just have a chance to change some minds.

5 comments:

Create a Comic Project said...

A great story NPHW should highlight: the Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education.

http://www.urbancure.org/

They're a group that teaches people not to rely on the government and to look to themselves, while providing private resources to help them. The best path to social justice in health is to do everything we can to move away from dependence on the state and federal systems and Cure is doing just that.

Money from Obama's "stimulus" will only go to those with political connections and lobbyists (Daschle was one such agent for corruption), just like the "stimulus" under Bush. It will be of no help at all for the common man. To think otherwise is a level of naivete unbecoming any sort of leadership group.

APHA said...

Thank you for your comment. In response, we'd like to explain more about APHA's support of the stimulus bill.

With the current economic situation causing more and more people to lose their jobs than ever before, investing in public health has never been more important. The inclusions of public health provisions in the economic stimulus bill will not only result in the preservation and creation of jobs, a critical goal of the bill, but will also allow states and local communities to meet the health needs of its residents in this trying time, while also reducing the growing economic and social costs associated with preventable disease and injuries.

The funds allow for improving and expanding the services provided by community health centers, as well as supporting critical safety net programs like Medicaid and the food stamp program – all of which are essential as people struggle to make ends meet.

For these reasons, APHA joins other leading health organizations in supporting the health provisions of the stimulus bill.

Create a Comic Project said...

Those are all worthy causes. However, you neglect to note that this bill consists entirely of deficit spending. Rather than take money from other, less functional programs, and distribute it to those kinds of things (a move which I would criticize less vehemently), Obama's stimulus bill, like those of Bush, borrows and prints money from thin air to support its measures.

The direct result of this is that the US dollar is weakened, creating inflation. We already saw the impact of inflation on costs when oil went to ~$150 a barrel due to a weak dollar. The inflationary impact will likely hit us in 1-2 years, possibly sooner. While the aims are to reduce costs in health and make things easier for people to afford, the impact of inflation across all sectors - including medicine and health - will only make things cost more, not less.

By supporting this bill, APHA is supporting a the Bush-Obama economic policy that will make it harder for normal people to make ends meet. This will cause them to have to cut their spending on health. For those on fixed incomes who've been suffering under low interest rates, the choice between food, shelter, or prescription drugs is already a reality and likely to grow worse.

In effect, this bill will be responsible for lowering the quality, access, and utilization of health care by people, especially the lower and middle classes and elderly. That is not a bill that should've been supported by a group that purports to fight for America's health and it pains me you overlooked this obvious unintended consequence.

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