Shortsighted Budget Cuts Threaten Public Health at Home and Abroad

The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA), and the Center for Global Health Policy understand the need to get the nations fiscal house in order. But as infectious disease and HIV experts, we have seen how cuts in critical funding for federal health agencies have devastated the lives of Americans and people around the globe. Although the cuts now being proposed by House leaders may appear "penny wise," we believe they are "pound foolish."

The shortsighted cuts for Fiscal Year 2011 proposed by the House Appropriations Committee for these agencies will have an immediate and devastating impact on the health of many in the United States and abroad. Particularly at risk are those who may be exposed to life-threatening drug-resistant bacterial infections, influenza, HIV, tuberculosis, or other infectious diseases. These diseases affect not only those who become ill but plague the communities where people live, work, and study, creating dangerous outbreaks and driving up health care costs.

Cutting funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the United States Agency for International Development, and other agencies would mean a dangerous step backwards for patients health, here and around the world. These cuts will translate into reduced surveillance and control programs to protect people from antimicrobial resistance, inadequate screening and treatment for HIV and tuberculosis, and fewer people receiving immunizations against life-threatening but preventable diseases. Hard-fought progress in extending life-saving and cost-effective treatment and prevention programs to those who need them most would be threatened. Cutting funding at the proposed levels would dramatically slow or derail innovations from biomedical research. An analysis published just this month in the New England Journal of Medicine underscores the important benefits this research funding has on improving public health.(1) This important work also drives economic development in communities across the country.

The recession and budget cuts by governments at all levels federal, state, and local are jeopardizing our fragile gains in public health and threaten the research that is our best hope for the future. The public health "safety net" has never been more at risk. As more people have less access to quality public health and preventive programs, health care costs will continue to soar, and patients will suffer. The proposals by the House Appropriations Committee will only aggravate an already dire situation. We must strengthen these critical investments in our shared health for the future. Shortsighted cuts will lead to dramatically higher costs tomorrow, measured not just in dollars but in care provided to those suffering from diseases that could have been prevented, fewer medical advances, and lives lost.

Reference: 1. Stevens AJ, Jensen JJ, Wyller K, et al. The Role of Public-Sector Research in the Discovery of Drugs and Vaccines. N Engl J Med 2011;364:535-41

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