Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A CDC budget for the Ages (but not the aged)

Here's some more on the President's 2007 CDC budget request from an analysis done by the Trust for America's Health (TFAH). Simultaneously TFAH released a poll done to estimate the top "health anxieties" of the American public. They are no surprise. In order: cancer, heart disease, obesity and a flu pandemic. This is the same order of priorities as the President's budget -- if you hold the list upside down:
"The dramatic cuts proposed to programs aimed at preventing cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and birth defects will come at a serious cost to our country's health," said Shelley A. Hearne, DrPH, Executive Director of TFAH. "It is an unfortunate choice given that chronic diseases are now the major source of illness and health cost in the U.S." (TFAH Press Release)
We already noted yesterday that the substantial allocation for "pandemic preparedness" is mostly for vaccines and antivirals. The first don't exist (yet) and the latter will be of marginal utility in a pandemic. On the other hand, the infrastructure that would deliver the vaccinations and administer the drugs to desperately ill people is being cut. For example, the President's budget zeroes out the prevention health and health services block grants (totaling $99 million) to support state public health programs. One hand giveth, the other taketh. The cuts to Medicare will also affect hospital and provider capacities at a time when they are already sorely distressed. It will be like the third of a billion dollar electricity generating station in Iraq that provides no electricity because they can't fuel it (see the sadly hilarious story at Deltoid). Finally, if you think that the bioterrorism - chronic disease trade-off is "worth it," you should know BT monies are level funded from 2006 (which means a cut in real money) and down 10% from 2005. But I'm not crying over it. Much of that was a waste of money anyway.

Here are some more of the lowlights: 12% cut to birth defects and developmental disabilities programs; 6% cut to environmental health programs; 2% cut to occupational safety and health. Those are the broad outlines. Within each programs are many devastating cuts to disease specific areas. Alzheimer's Program? Forget it.