Guest editorial: Urge legislators to support essential public health funding

  • Friday, April 21, 2017 1:45pm
  • Opinion

By Helen Price Johnson, Richard Hannold and Grethe Cammermeyer

Washington’s Public Health system is essential to the well-being and safety of our communities.

It is difficult to realize that a system of Public Health is present — primarily because their work is often done behind the scenes and goes largely unnoticed. Our Public Health professionals ensure the food served in restaurants is safe, they promote and provide vaccinations to help stop the spread of diseases like whooping cough and measles before they can occur.

When an unfortunate outbreak of a disease does occur our Public Health officials work to contain the outbreak preventing it from spreading.

For years now state funding for these efforts has diminished while populations have increased. Local resources are stretched to the limit as counties struggle to find ways to fill the gaps caused by an ever growing demand for service in the face of decreasing grant revenue.

The result is fewer infectious disease investigators and less ability to reach out to the community to address issues that impact the health of our island residents and their visitors.

The need for increased funding of our Foundational Public Health Services (FPHS) is quite evident and being considered in the legislature right now. These FPHS dollars would be used to strengthen our statewide Public Health system and begin to build back years of recession era funding cuts to local government.

In Island County this would have a positive impact allowing us to redirect our local dollars to meet the needs of our community.

• Improve immunization rates: Island County kindergartners had a completed immunization rate of 74.4 percent compared to a state rate of 83.3 percent in 2015. Adults 18-plus years and older had an influenza vaccine rate of 40.9 percent compared to a statewide rate of 60.9 in 2015.

• Promote youth physical activity: local 10th grade students report a 5.7 percent diabetes diagnosis compared to 3.2 percent statewide rate.

• Promote physical activity and prevent injury in seniors: Senior falls is the leading cause of hospitalization for adults age 64-plus in Island County — 20 times higher than any other cause.

We must protect our communities, our families and our children. Public health is essential to our safety.

Please join us in urging our legislators to support essential public health funding in the state budget.

Island County commissioners Helen Price Johnson and Richard M. Hannold and WhidbeyHealth commissioner Dr. Grethe Cammermeyer serve as members of the Island County Board of Health.

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