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Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

Sens. Van Hollen, Murray introduce bill to improve public health infrastructure

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Legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate this week by Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Patty Murray (D-WA) seeks to strengthen the public health infrastructure and enhance the nation’s ability to respond to COVID-19 and other public health challenges.

The Public Health Infrastructure Saves Lives Act (PHISLA) would provide $4.5 billion in funding for this new program. The program would provide grants to state, territorial, local, and Tribal health departments, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to strengthen the country’s public health system. It would also support the development and implementation of national public health accreditation.

The program would enhance eight core capabilities: public health assessment, preparedness and response, policy development and support, communications, community partnership development, organizational competencies, accountability, and equity.

The introduction of the bill comes on the same day that the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) released its annual report on the nation’s public health emergency preparedness. TFAH evaluated each state’s performance on 10 key emergency preparedness indicators and found room for improvement in every jurisdiction. It found 20 states and the District of Columbia in a high level of preparedness category, 15 states in a middle preparation tier, and 15 states in a lower preparation tier. It called for sustained annual investments in health capabilities.

The bill has been endorsed by TFAH along with 120 other organizations, including the American Federation of Teachers, American Heart Association, Association of American Medical Colleges, the Endocrine Society, March of Dimes, and the National League for Nursing.