Mar 26, 2021 - Health

Public health spending has been stagnant for a decade

Public health spending trends
Data: Alfonso YN, US public health neglected: flat or declining spending left states ill equipped to respond to COVID-19; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Public health spending in most of the country stayed flat or declined in the decade following the Great Recession, "leaving states ill equipped to respond to COVID-19 and other emerging health needs," according to a new study published in Health Affairs.

By the numbers: The study found that public health spending dropped from $80.40 per capita in 2008 to $75.83 in 2018.

  • The only category of spending that saw an overall increase was injury prevention, which includes substance abuse.
  • The estimated per capita cost of the coronavirus pandemic is $50,000, per the study.

The bottom line: "Without institutional reform, states are susceptible to continued neglect of public health with only short-term emergency infusions of federal funding in the midst of a crisis such as COVID-19," the authors write.

  • "Without substantial and sustained investment by states and ongoing robust federal support, the US may well continue its 'default' approach to public health funding: 'neglect, panic, repeat.'"
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