In Reponse to Ebola, MPHA Calls For Long-term Comittment to Prevention
As the threat of Ebola looms in the headlines, Massachusetts officials and health care providers are taking a closer look at our public health infrastructure and readiness to handle an infectious disease outbreak. On October 23, the legislature’s Public Health Committee held an oversight hearing to hear about the preparedness capabilities of the Commonwealth. MPHA Executive Director Rebekah Gewirtz presented testimony in which she called on state officials to not only to focus on the headlines about Ebola, but also to make a long-term commitment to funding the necessary infrastructure to ensure that we are prepared to address threats that surely will emerge in the future.
Ms. Gewirtz stressed that it is vital that we have systems and structures in place to protect our population from Ebola, but also from a wide variety of infectious diseases. She encouraged state officials to use this threat as a chance to assess the strength of our current public health infrastructure to ensure that we are prepared for future threats – expected and unexpected – that are sure to emerge in the years ahead. Public health programs are responsible for surveillance, prevention, preparedness, and response to infectious disease. This provides a safeguard for all residents, and when it works properly, it is an invisible shield for the health of the Commonwealth. This very invisibility of public health often leads to budget cuts, which deeply affected state public health programs during the recent recession. A long-term commitment to public health cannot be made without a commitment to funding.