Opinion: How cutting public health budgets imperils America’s health at large

President Trump’s proposal to cut the annual budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by just over 10% is short-sighted and would further strain the nation’s already struggling health system, according to a March 3, 2020, Boston Globe op-ed by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Dean Michelle Williams.

“Skimping on public health is disastrously myopic. When Americans are healthier, medical costs decline and job productivity goes up,” Williams wrote, citing recent research indicating that the return on investment of public health interventions in high-income countries tends to be somewhere in the range of 14 to 1.

Williams wrote that many of the Trump administration’s proposed cuts make little sense, especially trimming funding for chronic disease prevention and health promotion at a time when most of the top 10 causes of death in the United States are chronic afflictions.

Williams added that the CDC’s program for emerging and zoonotic infectious diseases would shrink by more than $85 million, impacting research on novel infections like COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus; food safety; and antibiotic-resistant infections, which afflict nearly 3 million Americans annually.

“Public health is purchasable. And it’s the best bargain around,” Williams wrote. “The CDC deserves robust and sustained funding for all of its life-saving work. Especially now as the nation ramps up to contend with coronavirus — and in the future when health officials can return their primary focus to preventive public health measures that are proven to save lives. Perhaps even yours.”

Read the Boston Globe article: Shrinking public health budgets shrink public health responses