Health Commissioner, Sally Nusslock, of the West Allis Health Department in Wisconsin discussed the seriousness of infectious disease in the US in a recent article in the Wisconsin State Journal in an effort to advocate for increased state funding to public health.
She touched on cryptosporidium which sickened 403,000 people in the Milwaukee area in 1993, H1N1 in 2009, Middle East Respiratory Syndrom (MERS), and then the recent Ebola scares in Dallas.
“The reality in our world today is that serious diseases are just a plane ride away. And not just rare or new diseases, highly communicable illnesses, such as measles, have returned with a vengeance.”
Ms. Nusslock continues saying “each time, public health workers must be ready to respond. These communicable diseases must be investigated, and the response coordinated and swift.
“Responded well, and the outbreak is contained. Respond poorly, and the risks of hospitalizations and death go up dramatically.”
Ms. Nusslock does acknowledge, however, that “responding well is hard work. It takes sufficient resources and a strong, well-trained public health workforce.”
“When public health is effective, your water is safe to drink and the food you eat at restaurants is safe to consume. The most pressing health needs of your community are monitored, and communicable diseases – from the rare to the more common – are prepared for.”
Wisconsin has had to endure outbreaks of measles, hepatitis C, tuberculosis, Legionnaires’ disease, food-borne illnesses, and other communicable diseases. Health department responses to outbreaks such as these can be very taxing.
Health Commissioner Nusslock feels that the public health work force, which has the potential to save so many lives from illness is at risk in Wisconsin. The national median for public health funding is $27.49 per capita; Wisconsin, however, only invests $13.10 per capita.
Because of this, she is advocating increasing funding by $5 million over the upcoming two-year budget cycle (just a fractionof the $68 billion statewide budget) to allow health departments in Wisconsin to better perform surveillance, provide public health awareness plans, and train staff.
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