Government Shutdown: How Might It Affect Public Health Services?

Apr 8, 2011, 4:23 PM

As the budget debate on Capitol Hill continues, NewPublicHealth spoke with the Department of Health and Human Services to get a rundown on a big question for the public health community:

What would happen to public health services in the event of a government shutdown?

Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Emergency Operations Center would be open. The agency would be able to call in furloughed employees if needed.
  • Immunization programs would continue.
  • Current disease outbreak investigations would continue, but new requests by states might be delayed.
  • Medical and scientific studies already underway would continue, but new ones could be delayed.
  • Lab animals will continue to be cared for.
  • The release of findings, recommendations and guidelines could be delayed or suspended.
  • Grants funded by the current budget continuing resolution (which funds the government in the absence of an approved budget) would not be funded. These include programs such as smoking cessation and weight loss initiatives.
  • Some consultations to physicians and health departments investigating disease outbreaks could stop.
  • Laboratory testing on samples related to disease outbreaks might stop or be delayed.
  • Health surveys such as the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey might be delayed or suspended.
  • Disease surveillance activities could be impacted, resulting in a delay in detecting disease outbreaks.

Information about a possible government shutdown is posted and will be updated on the website of the Office of Personnel Management.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.