Submitted on Tue, 2013-06-11
By Nar Ramkissoon

Discover how the ACA will trasform local health department funding

Affordable Care Act and Public Health Funding

The Affordable Care Act is going to have a huge impact on public health. The influx of newly insured citizens and the choices they make for their healthcare will need to be monitored closely by local health departments to make sure funding is being used effectively. Impacting more than just how local health departments will dispense their services and spend their resources, the Affordable Care Act has some much-needed new provisions that increase funding.

But just how much will the Affordable Care Act help the historically underfunded public health departments in the U.S.? 

The biggest impact the Affordable Care Act will have on the future of local health department funding comes from the newly established Prevention and Public Health Fund. The fund will the America’s first mandatory funding ever for public health. The new funding is meant to supplement existing funding, ensuring that local health departments are able to provide services.

The Prevention and Public Health Fund was originally approved with $15 billion in funding to public health from 2010 to 2021, and then $2 billion per year after that. In February of 2012, those numbers were revised, and funding was lowered by more than $6 billion from 2013 to 2021. Given the continuing state of the economy, the funding levels are expected to drop another 5% after this year.

There are four main objectives for this new funding:

Clinical Prevention - Funding will be used to enhance immunization programs and to increase public awareness of the Affordable Care Act and its benefits. It will also be used to better integrate primary care and behavioral health into one.

Community Prevention - Educating the community is vital to reducing the incidence of preventable diseases. There are a number of new grants local health departments can apply for which are designed to help spread awareness, too. Funding will also be used to meet this goal through the creation of PSAs that will spread awareness about preventable diseases. The key provision to watch for here is called “Community Transformation Grants” which invest in evidence-based programs to make communities healthier. These programs strive to reduce smoking and increase active living which leads to people living a healthier lifestyle.

Workforce and Infrastructure - New grants and funding will ensure more people are employed by local health departments and will increase training standards. The key provision to watch for here is called the “National Public Health Improvement Initiative” which helps build capacity and systems to improve the delivery and impact of public health services.

Research and Tracking - More funds will be able to filter into environmental research and into research on preventing diseases as well.

Local health departments should be sure to keep an eye on www.grants.gov and the HHS Grants Forecast page to take advantage of all these funding opportunities. It’s also important for the departments to be watchful of case studies for other tactics working in the industry. In order to keep the funding rolling in, it’s vital that an ROI is shown on the funding.

In our opinion, local health departments are still underfunded given their importance to the overall health of America, but the Prevention and Public Health Fund is a great start and should prove to be quite effective.