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#CSTE on Capitol Hill

Posted By Jeremy Arieh and Emily Holubowich, Thursday, March 23, 2017
Updated: Thursday, March 23, 2017
Each year, members of CSTE’s executive leadership team visit Washington, DC to meet with key Congressional offices on behalf of the applied epidemiology profession. Advocacy is one of CSTE’s integral functions, and the activity is a key component of the overall CSTE mission. On March 8-9, President Joe McLaughlin of Alaska, President-Elect Janet Hamilton of Florida, Secretary-Treasurer Sarah Y. Park of Hawaii, Senior Board Advisor Tim Jones of Tennessee and Executive Director Jeff Engel attended meetings with members of the U.S. House and Senate, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Washington office as part of the 2017 “Hill Day.”

Pictured (L-R): Janet Hamilton, Jeff Engel, Tim Jones, Sarah Park, Emily Holubowich and Joe McLaughlin attend CSTE Hill Day at the U.S. Capitol.

 

Led by CSTE’s Washington representative Emily Holubowich, advocacy efforts during this year’s Hill visits hinged upon the preservation of CDC’s Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Infectious Diseases (ELC) funding, which in fiscal year 2016 awarded over $240 million to help states detect, prevent and respond to the growing threats posed by infectious diseases, including foodborne and vaccine-preventable diseases. In particular, CSTE’s meetings focused on proposed cuts to the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) as part of legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The loss of the PPHF would deal a $900 million blow to the CDC’s budget, and a $50 million blow to epidemiology capacity at the state and local level. This funding comprises around 12 percent of the CDC’s overall budget, and it is a vital aspect of our nation’s public health infrastructure. Cuts of this magnitude could severely hamper core CDC programs, such as immunization, workforce capacity, vector-borne disease management and more.

With the House’s introduction of the American Health Care Act (ACHA) to repeal the ACA earlier in the week, this year’s Hill visit was very well-timed, as CSTE leaders spoke to the proposed PPHF cut during meetings with Senate and House staff. Our packed March 8th agenda began with an ASTHO briefing at the Capitol Visitors Center. The briefing featured panel discussions on hot topic issues, such as Zika prevention and opioid addiction. CSTE Senior Board Advisor and Tennessee State Epidemiologist Tim Jones joined a panel of state health department experts from Georgia, Florida and Minnesota to convey his experiences during Tennessee’s Zika response.


Pictured: Tim Jones highlights Tennessee’s Zika response during an ASTHO panel, entitled Zika Response: State & Territorial Public Health Acting to Protect America’s Health.

From there, CSTE attended meetings with Senate and House staffers, including the offices of Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson of Florida, Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee and Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware. Meetings were held with staff of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee and Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education & Related Agencies. Our Hill visits concluded with a meeting with staff at the CDC Washington offices on March 9th.

Pictured: CSTE leadership met with staff in the offices of Sens. Richard Burr, Lisa Murkowski, Marco Rubio, Brian Schatz and several others.

As part of our ongoing advocacy efforts, CSTE once again partnered with the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) in co-signing request letters to Senate and House appropriators urging support of CDC’s core epidemiology and laboratory programs in the FY 2018 federal budget. The letters emphasize the need for vital funding of Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Disease prevention and Public Health Workforce and Career Development.

Our presence on Capitol Hill was more important than ever. Last week, President Trump provided a preview of his FY 2018 budget and proposed an 18 percent cut to HHS. The high-level budget summary does not specify the level of cuts to CDC, but one must assume that the full budget released in May will include deep cuts given the cuts proposed for the Department itself. CSTE will continue to educate lawmakers about the value of disease surveillance activities at the state and local levels, and work with our partners in the public health community to protect CDC from further cuts.

Click HERE to view a table of ELC and HAI funding for each state in FY 2016.

 

Tags:  epidemiology  infectious disease  surveillance 

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