Like most Americans, investing and thinking about the future is not easy. Investing money now for the future is less appealing and often less feasible when the here and now is full of crises and mandates. Plus, there is the appeal of funding initiatives and priorities that make your communities attractive places to call home.

This year, the state legislature will have to make a pivotal decision about investing in our state’s public health system. Our state’s public health system is facing serious challenges. These challenges compromise the public health system’s ability to ensure healthy and vibrant communities.

To reduce the biggest threats to our communities, we need our state to make a crucial $100 million investment in the future of our public health system. This permanent investment, made in the 2019 and 2020 biennium, will help fill critical gaps and ensure the public health services we all rely on are readily available for all residents of Washington.

Years of inadequate funding has left the state and local public health systems straining to protect the public. We are now at increased risk for outbreaks of communicable diseases like measles, which for years had been under control but there are now active cases in Clark and King County. Our kids are at increased risk of being exposed to high levels of lead or other environmental toxins, and we don’t have detection systems in place to quickly identify and stop the spread of disease.

Time is critical. Intervening early can stop issues before they become a crisis. We may not see the immediate benefits, but science and data show that our investments will pay off in the long run. For example, identifying latent tuberculosis before it becomes infectious costs the public health system $600 versus an active tuberculosis case (that is infectious and is of a greater threat to public safety) which can cost upwards of $25,000.

Last Friday, House Healthcare and Wellness Committee members heard testimony on HB 1497 – instilling the foundational public health services framework. Over 30 private and public partners signed in support of this effort. With the passage of the policy bill in addition to our funding request, lawmakers will be making a solid investment into our future.

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Jaime Bodden

Jaime Bodden is the Managing Director for WSALPHO. Previously, Jaime managed and oversaw the operations of a small health department as Health Officer/Director. Additionally, Jaime has experience in community engagement, health promotion, global health, and health policy. She holds Master degrees in Social Work and Public Health from Washington University in St. Louis.