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Learning Communities

This month I decided to shift my story’s attention away from my project to ask two questions I’ve been mulling over. Here’s the first: How can you do more with less? My state has grappled with what many consider crippling cuts over several years to funding for public health care, this year being no different. Million dollar cuts being made to our public hospital system will set off a chain reaction of reductions in patient visits, hospital stays, and chronic disease services, as well as clinician and administrative staff. The public hospital system was set up to provide free care to the poor, under and un-insured in the state, a population that we clearly have and need care. And unfortunately, this population hasn’t declined, so doesn't it seem counterintuitive to say that we need to address healthcare, health disparities, the poor and underserved, while cutting funding to provide needed services year after year?

Public health needs increased funding, not reductions. Which leads to my second question: Why aren’t we doing more to protect public health funding? I should probably speak for myself. I have been in the public health field now for 11 years working on tobacco control activities (prevention and cessation). I have grown more passionate about my work over time, but must admit I have not taken the kinds of actions that support the field. I have not attended meetings, written letters, called or e-mailed my elected officials on behalf of public health. Aside from my work, I know these types of activities educate and indicate the importance of sustaining healthcare resources for the people who need them most. I’m beginning to recognize that if I don’t begin to participate in the political process, what seems to be a war on the poor, the have not’s, will no long be considered a war, but rather a massacre.

I’m asking these questions because as a public health practitioner, advocate, and at one point patient of the public hospital system, I want to hear others thoughts and experiences. I believe I’m one of many who think about these questions, but have yet to ask or act upon them. So, community of practice, what are your ideas, stories, or examples of what can be done to promote and sustain public health funding?