Federal funding for health is in jeopardy.

In the recent State of the Union address, President Obama announced a five-year freeze on domestic spending (aka non-security discretionary spending). On Jan. 25th, the House of Representatives approved a resolution to reduce non-security spending to 2008 levels.

We cannot balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable.

To avoid losing the progress that targeted spending has made in saving lives and improving health outcomes, the Senate should pass an omnibus bill that provides slight increases to FY10 levels for the majority of global health accounts. Last year’s efforts to pass an omnibus bill died in December when it became clear that 60 votes were not available to overcome a threatened Republican filibuster, the Washington Post reported. The federal budget is currently running on a Continuing Resolution that expires March 4, 2011. If the Senate fails to sustain or increase funding, this will have a direct impact on health outcomes in 2011 and the years to come.

An arbitrary freeze on spending is short-sighted and ineffective. The money saved will not adequately address the federal deficit. For example, foreign aid is a small fraction of the US budget. The International Affairs budget makes up about 1% of the overall federal budget, yet was able to fund the treatment of AIDS, TB, and malaria for millions of people. This investment is humanitarian, diplomatic, and economically sound, as it allows people to continue working and reduces the likelihood of transmission, and hence avoids increased health care costs.

A return to 2008 levels would dramatically reduce funding for the Global Health and Child Survival USAID Account (USAID-GHCS). January marked some milestones that offer a glimpse of the urgency of the need for continued investment in global health.  This month was the one year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti and the six month anniversary of the floods in Pakistan. Yesterday, the WHO Director General, Margaret Chan, commented that increased funding is necessary and asked,

“Will progress stall? Will powerful innovations, like the meningitis vaccine, like the vaccines for preventing diarrheal disease and pneumonia, like the new diagnostic test for tuberculosis, fall short of reaching their potential? Public health has been on a winning streak. But will we still have the resources to maintain, if not accelerate, these gains?

Domestic health is also at risk. Most insiders anticipate a healthcare reform repeal vote in the Senate before long.

Please call your Senator to share your opinion. You can use this script:

I am a voter in your state. I urge you to sustain or expand funding for global and domestic health because it’s a smart investment. When it comes to health, short-term funding cuts will have long-term repercussions. We need to continue the work to make health care affordable and accessible, make prevention a priority, and ensure that women have access to the reproductive and other health care services they need. As a member of Physicians for Human Rights, I will be keeping an eye on how you vote on this issue.

You can find your senator here.

Please report your call here.

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