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Nancy Gilbert: Sequestration a threat to public health

To the editor:

On Friday, core government functions, including critical public health services like food safety inspections, HIV testing, immunization clinics and response to both emergencies (snowstorms, tornadoes and floods) and disease outbreaks (whooping cough) will face damaging cuts under the sequestration. If our lawmakers can’t put politics aside for this, these cuts will compromise our nation’s health, security and economy and endanger millions of American jobs. Already under-funded public health departments in Massachusetts will continue to struggle to protect the health of our communities, and the public will be at greater risk for infectious disease outbreaks, food-borne illnesses like E. coli and inadequate emergency preparedness for storms.

Most people are unaware of how efficient our state’s public health departments are because they prevent many health-related problems from occurring. Public health nurses, inspectors, sanitarians and others focus on primary prevention — preventing illness and negative health events from happening.

Essential public health services such as food safety inspection and disease prevention and control are not the drivers of our nation’s debt, and they have already done more than their part to reduce the deficit. Please join me in urging Sens. Elizabeth Warren and William “Mo” Cowan and Reps. James McGovern and Richard Neal to work with their colleagues in Congress to find a balanced approach to deficit reduction. Only through balance can we avoid these devastating cuts and put our nation on a sustainable fiscal path while continuing to adequately protect the public’s health.

Nancy J. Gilbert


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