Health care law boosts funding to equip and modernize public health labs
Candidate Barack Obama's plan for health care included government investment in public health buildings, particularly laboratories.
Public health labs are a first line of defense against public health threats. Their workers test specimens in a West Nile outbreak or an anthrax attack. They monitor drinking water for contamination. They screen for genetic and metabolic conditions in newborns. They track the latest flu virus.
About 300 state and local labs across the country do that work, coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies.
But funding has been an ongoing challenge.
Still, the federal government has invested in modernizing the labs, first as a response to the H1N1 flu outbreak in 2009, and then as part of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, according to the nonprofit association that represents them.
During the flu pandemic, CDC gave $5.5 million to better equip labs. Then Obamacare boosted funding in the Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity program by $20 million in 2010 and $40 million a year for fiscal years after that.
That money goes to "modernize, equip, and staff public health laboratories,” according to the CDC and in 2011 was distributed across 50 states, six major cities and two territories.
That amounts to almost doubling the funding for the lab capacity program, and has "specifically improved the public health laboratory community's ability to manage the electronic data transmission of test orders and results,” said Peter Kyriacopoulos, senior director of public policy for the Association of Public Health Laboratories.
Given that budget boost for lab modernization, we rate this Promise Kept.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story used an incorrect number of state and local public health laboratories.
Email interview with Peter Kyriacopoulos, senior director of public policy, Association of Public Health Laboratories, Nov. 29, 2012
Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Justification of Estimates for Appropriations Committees, Fiscal Year 2013
Email interview with Jody DeVoll, director of strategic communications, Association of Public Health Laboratories, Nov. 29, 2012
Association of Public Health Laboratories, "Public Health Laboratories: Analysis, Answers, Action," 2009
Association of Public Health Laboratories, "APHL: Leading the Labs that Protect the Nation"s Health," 2009
No money yet for public health buildings
We looked in the Obama administration's budget documents and in stimulus funds for money going to public health laboratories. We couldn't find any additional money for either state-based laboratories or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's public laboratories.
We asked the Association for Public Health Laboratories, a professional association for state-based laboratories. A spokeswoman said the group didn't know of any extra funds for buildings.
"The federal government did not provide funding for public health laboratories through the stimulus bill," said spokeswoman Jody DeVoll. "Public health laboratories received a minuscule portion of federal funding for response to the H1N1 pandemic. We are hopeful that funding for health information technology will make it to the public health laboratories to enable electronic laboratory messaging."
Since we haven't found action on this item, we're rating it Stalled.
Interview with Jody DeVoll, the Association for Public Health Laboratories