Trust for America's Health Releases Blueprint for Modernizing Public Health for the Presidential Transition and Next Congress

    • October 21, 2008

Trust for America's Health (TFAH) today released a Blueprint for a Healthier America: Modernizing the Federal Public Health System to Focus on Prevention and Preparedness with recommendations for the next administration and Congress on ways to improve the health of Americans. More than 150 experts and organizations helped identify gaps and fixes for federal public health agencies and programs through a year-long consensus-building process.

"America's public health system is broken. Serious gaps exist in the nation's ability to safeguard health, putting our families, communities, states, and the country at risk," said Jeff Levi, Ph.D., executive director of TFAH. "This Blueprint reflects ideas from the best and the brightest minds in public health for ways to prevent disease, prepare for disasters, and bring down health care costs."

Even though the United States spends more than $2 trillion annually on health care, tens of millions of Americans suffer from preventable diseases and major vulnerabilities exist in the nation's preparedness to respond to health emergencies.

Some highlighted recommendations in the Blueprint include: 

  • Setting new, realistic short and long-term health goals for the country;
  • Investing in disease prevention as a cornerstone of health care reform;
  • Ensuring a stable and reliable funding stream for core public health functions and preventive services, such as immunizations and screening, public health emergency preparedness, and promoting physical activity, good nutrition, and smoking prevention;
  • Creating an independent, science-driven National Public Health Board;
  • Implementing a National Health and Prevention Strategy focused on lowering disease rates, including a strategy to combat obesity;
  • Increasing accountability by tying tax-payer investments to improving the health of Americans and improving federal, state, and local coordination;
  • Addressing the public health workforce crisis with stepped-up recruitment efforts;
  • Clearly defining public health emergency preparedness and response roles and responsibilities;
  • Establishing an emergency health benefit for use by uninsured and underinsured Americans during major disasters and disease outbreaks; and
  • Fixing the food safety system.

An analysis showing a shortfall of $20 billion annually—across state, local, and federal government—in funding for critical public health programs in the U.S., based on research conducted by The New York Academy of Medicine and a panel of leading experts is also included in the Blueprint. Approximately $1 billion of this shortfall is due to cuts to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) budget from fiscal year 2005 levels.

The Blueprint calls for establishing a stable, reliable funding stream for public health and provides options for funding mechanisms to make up the $20 billion shortfall by increasing federal spending by $12 billion and state and local spending by $8 billion annually over the next four to five years. TFAH recently issued a report that found that an investment of $10 per person per year in proven community-based programs to increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and prevent smoking and other tobacco use could save the country more than $16 billion annually within five years.

A public opinion survey of 1,026 registered voters (margin of error +/- 3.1 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence interval) conducted for TFAH by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Public Opinion Strategies in June 2008 found that:

  • 63 percent of Americans believe that investing in disease prevention and helping people stay healthy will save money on long-term health costs;
  • More than 60 percent say that fighting "diseases related to obesity" is a very important issue for the government to focus on, a nine-point increase from 2006;
  • Only 15 percent of Americans believe the government is very prepared to handle major natural disasters and 82 percent are concerned about the safety of the country given that many U.S. cities and communities are not adequately equipped; and
  • 65 percent of Americans feel that "protecting food from diseases like salmonella and E.coli" is a very important issue for the government to tackle. 

The Blueprint was supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  The full document is available on TFAH's Web site.

Trust for America's Health is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. Helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need-the Foundation expects to make a difference in our lifetime.