While public health workers do not direct air traffic and therefore don’t grab national attention when furloughed or defunded, public health workers are essential to our country’s safety too.
We’ll notice when there aren’t enough public health workers. But by then, it may be too late to deal with the next hurricane or epidemic or whatever the next crisis is. We know one thing: there will be other crises. It’s easy to cut budgets for public health. These folks aren’t big donors, and they don’t scream loudly. I cannot believe that Secretary Sebelius would knowingly cut essential funds for public health while at the same time emphasizing the importance of prevention to implementation of the Affordable Care Act. She is a smart, strategic secretary. Undoubtedly, her hand has been forced by sequestration.
I am dismayed and disheartened by the administration’s proposal to eliminate the $1.9 million public health traineeship program in 2014, with possible termination of funding in 2013. This is a small program in the overall HHS budget, but one of the very few training programs for public health workers. We would have received $120,000 to support students next year. We will make good on our promises to incoming students, but that will force us to cut other parts of our programs. 29 other schools also would lose their funding for some of the most vulnerable but valuable students. These funds are the only support schools of public health have to recruit underrepresented students, students who are likely to return to their communities to provide impact many times the investment in this program. These students cannot attend schools of public health without our help.
I could not have gone to graduate school without a public health traineeship. I daresay that many of today’s public health leaders would say the same.
Secretary Sebelius, you may not have intended to eliminate funding for the students who will be among the most capable in serving our most vulnerable communities, but without further intervention, it is likely that this will happen under your watch.
Wishing you all a happier Monday than I am feeling. Barbara