Connecticut has a chronic problem with underfunding public health. We aren’t alone, but we’ve done little to fix the problem. The pandemic should’ve made crystal clear the value of a strong public health surveillance and response system. Like all prevention, we have to fund it before we need it.
In 2021, Connecticut ranked 24th in the nation on per capita public health funding, according to the latest report from Trust for America’s Health. We spent $38 in state public health funds per state resident. That’s up from $29 in 2019, but not nearly enough. We are well behind our neighboring states Massachusetts at $94 and New York at $91 per capita. (Rhode Island’s number was not available.)
Connecticut, like other states, received significant sums from the federal government for public health functions in 2021. The CDC sent us $506 million for fourteen different programs from environmental health to occupational safety and health. We received another $667 million from the CDC in COVID response funds.
Public health does a lot more than protect us during pandemics. It’s about all the health challenges facing our state’s population including obesity and other chronic conditions, suicide prevention, preventing adverse childhood experiences, violence and injury prevention, connecting clinical medicine to community services, access to healthy food, and supporting physical activity. Without a strong system to prevent health problems at the population level, healthcare treatment costs rise, insurance premiums and government program costs rise, raising taxes, burdening employers and workers, and taxing the economy.
We neglect public health funding at our peril.