Congress Delivers Lump of Lead – CDC Lead Poisoning Prevention Program Gutted
by Dr. Megan Sandel
A recent op-ed highlighted the importance of partnerships between healthcare and housing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Assistant Secretary, Raphael Bostic, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) President Risa Lavizzo-Mourey state that “housing policy is health policy” and “preventing disease is cheaper than treating illness.” We couldn’t agree more.
The convergence of healthcare and housing interests around “place” and “health” is encouraging. It’s a much needed coming-together; especially given a recent agreement by the administration and Congress to cut CDC’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program to $2 million. This is a significant cut from about $29 million in FY11 and from $15 million in the president’s budget.
Although there is much uncertainty about all of the ramifications at this point, a few things are certain. Lead poisoning is far from being solved, and there’s much work ahead on healthy homes. There will likely be massive job loss at the state and local levels. The recommended new blood lead level, which will increase the number of children requiring follow-up for lead poisoning, will be futile if there are no service providers available to deliver those services.
Where do we go from here? Well, the op-ed article called for the country to stop working in silos and work together. It also said that “at a time when we must do more with less, creating similar partnerships makes fiscal sense.” If there was ever a time when that was most critical, it is now. The Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) was tasked by the Senate with helping to fill the gap in services caused by the reduction of the CDC program. We hope that HRSA will take the challenge and opportunity to ensure that vulnerable families receive the services they need.
So, let’s collaborate and focus on what actions are needed to help the program sustain itself for FY12 and to reverse the damage in FY13.