Clinician Hill Day

Endocrine Society Calls on
Congress to Stop Cuts and Keep America
Safe and Healthy, Invest in Public Health

On July 15, the Endocrine Society joined with the Coalition of Health Funding (CHF), which represents more than 90 public health advocacy organizations, to call on Congress to prevent further budget cuts to federal health programs.

At a standing-room-only briefing for congressional staff, the CHF released a new report, “Faces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Hurt America’s Health,” documenting the dire consequences of Congress’ deep cuts to public health programs in recent years. The Endocrine Society contributed to the report by writing a chapter illustrating how cuts in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have significantly impeded efforts to advance diabetes research.

Broader Strategy

The report and briefing are part of a broader Society strategy to educate Congress about the impact of budget cuts on public health programs and advocate for prevention of further cuts. Just a tiny fraction of the federal budget goes toward supporting all of our nation’s public health needs — everything from preventing disease, to keeping our food and drugs safe, to ensuring that Americans have access to primary care doctors.

Flat federal funding over the last decade has reduced that small pot of money to unacceptable levels. At a time when we should be taking advantage of scientific opportunities and building on previous discoveries, the NIH is operating at a level that is 20% below its FY 2003 budget. The Society wanted to make sure congressional offices understand the impacts of its budget cuts.

Public Health Crisis

Nationally, budget cuts have forced the layoffs of more than 50,000 public health professionals who monitor and respond to virus outbreaks, immunize children and the elderly, inspect restaurants, and care for the indigent. Public health departments in 33 states and the District of Columbia have reduced their budgets. Funds for public health overall, let alone the workforce, have been eroding for nearly a decade, and while there will be some limited sequester relief in 2014, sequestration threatens public health programs in 2015 and for years to come unless Congress does something to support a balanced approach to deficit reduction.

“More than 29 million people in this country have diabetes, and we desperately need to do something about it,” says Richard J. Santen, MD, Endocrine Society president. “Cuts to health programs are slowing and sometimes halting potentially life-saving research. Investing in biomedical research funding is investing in ourselves, our families, and our communities and should not be further eroded.”

The “Faces of Austerity” report is available online at www.cutshurt.org.

— Becker is the senior director of Advocacy & Policy Programs, at the Endocrine Society

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