Did we learn our lesson about funding public health? 'We're hopeful, but we're not sure'

By , KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Concerns about public health funding took center stage during the coronavirus pandemic — and even as we dig out from COVID-19, the focus is on the public health infrastructure of the future.

"You underappreciate not only the health benefits of prevention but the cost savings," said John Auerbach, president and CEO of Trust for America's Health.

Auerbach recently joined the KYW Newsradio In Depth podcast to talk about public health shortcomings, and how to fix them. He said good public health infrastructure is a direct result of investments in public health.

"If we invest in the workforce and the personnel and the technology that's necessary, we will reduce or avert emergencies," he said. "We'll have people in place day in, day out."

However, Auerbach added states' public health dollars vary.

"In Pennsylvania, the state invests $198 million in its public health department. It has a population of 13 million," he detailed.

"Georgia, by comparison, has a population of 10 million, 3 million less than Pennsylvania, but it invests $298 million in its state public health department, fully $100 million more."

Auerbach said viruses are not the only public health related emergency that can be addressed with better infrastructure. There are also weather-related emergencies and in recent years, vaping and gun violence.

"Public health has to be prepared to respond to, sometimes more than one emergency at the same time," he said. "The federal government, under Republican as well as Democratic administrations, declared more weather-related emergencies in the last several years than they ever did in history."

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