Recession And Swine Flu Test Public Health Abilities

Local public health agencies are a strapped for resources around the country as states cut their budgets to ease the burden of the recession while a major public health event, swine flu, continues its slow spread, the Associated Press reports. At least 21 states have cut health budgets since 2007, and while the flu outbreak "fell short of a full-blown international crisis," it "revealed the precarious state of local health departments." For instance, "Twenty-nine public health workers in Sacramento County, Calif., learned just before being called to work on swine flu that they probably would lose their jobs this summer" (Beamish and Bass, 5/26).

Meanwhile, in New York City health officials reported yesterday two more deaths of New York City residents, while the CDC reported Monday a total of 10 deaths and 6,764 cases of the virus in 47 states and the District of Columbia, the New York Times reports (Chan, 5/26).

Flu-fighters aren't the only public health officials to feel the pinch of the financial crisis. "Cash-strapped state governments are slashing funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs in a move anti-tobacco groups say could backfire, costing taxpayers later for treatment of tobacco-related illnesses among people who might've quit," according to another AP story. Vermont, Washington state, Maryland and Colorado will all see anti-smoking cuts this year, with Maryland slashing nearly three quarters of its budget (Curren, 5/26).

In Sacramento, the county psychiatric hospital was forced to stop admitting new patients Friday as county "budget woes" combined with an increase in mentally ill residents to overwhelm the hospital, the Sacramento Bee reports. Local officials told the Bee that California, where budget issues have been a perennial issue this spring, is "facing a mental health crisis" (Lewis, 5/27).

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