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If You Have a Stake in Public Health Preparedness, You Have a Stake in the Budget Debate:

The current House and Senate Republican budget proposals shortchange our country on the resources we need to effectively prepare for future public health emergencies.

This morning, the President awarded the Presidential Unit Citation to a group of professionals from the U.S. Public Health Service—acknowledging their extraordinary heroism on the front lines of our successful effort to combat the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

Our ability to lead an effective global response—one that turned the tide of the epidemic—was ultimately a matter of resources.

And the fact is that right now, the House and Senate Republican budgets shortchange our country on the resources we need to effectively prepare for, respond to, and recover from future public health emergencies.

It’s yet another example of the mindless cuts forced by sequestration. And, it could mean a less-effective response to an outbreak on the scale of last year's Ebola outbreak — but also to a host of other potential disasters, such as an anthrax attack.

So as you hear a lot of talk in the news about a potential government shutdown, make sure you understand exactly what's at stake in the broader budget debate.

Here's exactly what the current Republican budget proposals would mean to our nation's (and our global) public health, and our ability to respond effectively to disasters:

  • They fail to meet the President’s FY 2016 Budget request for $110 million to respond to an urgent or emergency need that could cause severe consequences. Why does that matter? Because it's the funding that HHS needs to respond quickly to an infectious disease outbreak -- such as influenza or another public health crisis.
  • They would underfund our ability to procure safe and effective medical countermeasures to protect Americans against potential chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks through the BioShield program.
  • The Senate appropriations bill provides insufficient funding for maternal and child health programs at USAID, including $35 million less than the President's Budget request for the U.S. contribution to Gavi, the Vaccine Initiative -- a necessary investment that provides children around the world with access to life-saving vaccines.
  • The House appropriations bill cuts the Contributions and International Organizations account by $67 million and provides no funding for the International Organizations and Programs account. These accounts support critical collective efforts by international organizations to combat violent extremism, limit the spread of nuclear and chemical weapons, reach agreement to impose sanctions on rogue states and actors, promote children's health, and promote and protect human rights.

As we look back at the government's aggressive response to the Ebola outbreak, and commend those who helped spearhead it, we can see that it's also irresponsible to shortchange the profoundly important work of responding to public health emergencies.