Annie Carlin, Senior Specialist for Public Policy, Association of Public Health Laboratories
Again this year, APHL along with members from five states visited select Hill leadership and Congressional offices from CA, CT, NY, IA and WI to promote state and local governmental laboratories. The message was simple: these are essential programs that work, as long as funding is maintained. With increased funding, labs could do even more to enhance public health. We shared materials produced by APHL staff on newborn screening, public health emergency response, biomonitoring, and emerging infectious diseases, highlighting the impact on each individual state. APHL members told stories that demonstrate how important these public health activities are to constituents and to the nation. From the baby whose life was saved when a routine newborn screening test discovered a dangerous but treatable disorder, to success stories of quick response to public health emergencies like the H1N1 flu pandemic, it was clear that these programs have a dramatic effect on everyone’s lives.
The importance of a strong CDC and funding for prevention programs were also at the forefront of our discussions in the midst of the very difficult and uncertain budget. Many governmental health laboratory activities are funded by the CDC and we emphasized that investing in prevention was cost-effective in the long run by saving money on future health costs.
While many public health programs have been spared so far in the cuts already made in the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolutions (CRs), no one really knows what will happen on April 8th when the current CR expires. Because the Senate and House are so far away from each other in the negotiations, it is impossible for even the most seasoned Congressional staffer to predict what will happen in the next few weeks, much less in the next fiscal year.
Despite the difficulties facing Congress, our meetings were productive. We are confident that our message regarding critical public health activities performed by public health laboratories was conveyed with great success. Several appointments, hours traipsing between the Senate and House office buildings, and many sore feet later, APHL did its best to give policy makers the tools they need to make the right decisions on funding public health activities.
Thanks to everyone who helped make this year’s Hill Day great! See you next year!