HHS Awards Millions to Boost Public Health, Fight Infections

Late last week, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius awarded up to $137 million, partly supported by the Affordable Care Act, to states to strengthen the public health infrastructure and provide jobs in core areas of public health. Awarded in nearly every state, the grants enhance state, tribal, local and territorial efforts to provide tobacco cessation services, strengthen public health laboratory and immunization services, prevent healthcare-associated infections, and provide comprehensive substance abuse prevention and treatment.

"More than ever, it is important to help states fight disease and protect public health," says Sebelius. "These awards are an important investment and will enable states and communities to help Americans quit smoking, get immunized and prevent disease and illness before they start."

The grants will fund key state and local public health programs supported through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Most of these grant dollars come from the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the Affordable Care Act. Additional SAMHSA dollars supplement this investment.

"CDC supports state and local public health departments which are key to keeping America safe from threats to health, safety, and security from this country or anywhere in the world," says CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden. "With these funds, CDC is strengthening our ability to prevent and combat diseases and keep Americans safe against expensive and dangerous health threats."

The awards include:

- $1 million to further enhance the nations public health laboratories by hiring and preparing scientists for careers in public health laboratories, providing training for scientists, and supporting public health initiatives related to infectious disease research.

- More than $42 million to support: improvements to the Immunization Information Systems (registries) and other immunization information technologies; development of systems to improve billing for immunization services; planning and implementation of adult immunization programs; enhancement of vaccination capacity located in schools; and evaluations of the impact on disease of recent vaccine recommendations for children and adolescents.

- $2.6 million to the Emerging Infections Programs around the country to continue improvement in disease monitoring, professional development and training, information technology development, and laboratory capacity.

- $9.2 million to eight national non-profit professional public health organizations to assist state, tribal, local, and territorial health departments in adopting effective practices that strengthen their core public health systems and service delivery. They will also enhance the workforce by providing jobs in critical disciplines of epidemiology and informatics, thus attracting new talent to public health.

- $1.5 million to evaluate and prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia to reduce cases of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections and protect Americans from healthcare-associated infectious diseases.

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