By Brent Ewig
Director - Public Policy & Government Affairs, AMCHP
Faithful readers may recall that my last column reflected the deep frustration I have shared regarding Congress' failure to respond in a timely manner to the request for emergency supplemental funds to address the Zika virus. It is a great relief to again share the news that Congress recently passed a $1.1. billion Zika package.
Clearly, the immediate imperative for MCH leaders is to help deploy these resources in the most efficient and expeditious manner to protect mothers and babies from the Zika virus. As this work unfolds, MCH leaders need to help drive a dialogue with the broader public health community and policymakers to examine two critical questions: 1) Why did the Congress take nearly seven months to act on an emergency request made in February to respond to a virus that potentially attacks babies' brains? 2) What can we do to assure minimal delays in funding any future public health emergencies?
To the former, it's fair to fully examine all factors – including whether we, as MCH advocates, communicated the urgency of the situation effectively and to ask what else we could have done to make our case. To the latter, it's encouraging that discussions have begun to revive the concept of a Federal Emergency Management Agency-like public health emergency fund that would be available immediately when certain conditions are met. Association of State & Territorial Health Officials has begun to take a leadership role in pushing for such a fund, and we hope to join efforts in the next Congress to establish such an emergency fund.
Speaking of the next Congress, we at AMCHP are excited to be finalizing a 100-day agenda of policy steps the next president and Congress could take to improve the health of women, children and families, including those with special health care needs. Our plan is to release this agenda shortly after the election, and we look forward to a window of opportunity to make great strides for MCH!