Friday, January 01, 2010

Lawmakers provide flu funding

Congress gave public health a nice end-of-year bonus this December in the form of more funding to prevent and fight the flu. The new money means that researchers and public health workers will be able to keep more Americans safe from flu threats such as H1N1, also known as swine flu.

On Dec. 16, President Barack Obama signed a law — the FY2010 Consolidated Appropriations Bill — that provided more than $165 billion in funding for federal agencies that deal with issues such as education and health — and also flu. The need for more work on influenza was so important to lawmakers that they mentioned it in an accompanying report to the law, noting that there are "major gaps in our scientific knowledge" of how flu is spread and prevented.

Much of the new flu funding is earmarked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is designed to tackle some of the lessons learned from the H1N1 influenza outbreak , which has led to more than 1,600 confirmed U.S. deaths and 36,000 hospitalizations.

Among the funds for CDC, more than $874 million was provided in the new law for a CDC immunization program — known as Section 317 — that provides vaccines to uninsured children. Another $15 million was set aside for the National Healthcare Safety Network, an Internet-based disease surveillance system, and $136 million went to a program on emerging infectious diseases.

Lawmakers also remembered health and other workers in the bill, increasing funds for the National Occupational Research Agenda so that the program can continue to keep workers safe from flu while on the job.

Looks like a promising start to the new year on flu funding.

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