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Why It Matters

Fix the (social) potholes!

August 21, 2018 | Comment

By Dennis Archambault

Throughout the primary election the overstated campaign issue was “fix the potholes.”  It’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that this is a metaphor for fixing or strengthening the state’s physical infrastructure. What about the social infrastructure?

The Citizens Research Council has released a report  (https://crcmich.org/an-ounce-of-prevention-what-public-health-means-for-michigan/)  that documents the drop in spending on public health in Michigan, pushing the state to the bottom in per-capita public health expenditures. You’d think that the Flint disaster would have prompted greater debate about the need for a stronger public health system, and specifically “health in all policies,” which could have prevented, or certainly minimized the damaged caused by poor government oversight.

According to the CRC report, Michigan has seen a worst-in-the-nation outbreak of Hepatitis A, numerous outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, an infant mortality rate well above the national average, and above average prevalence of chronic disease.

The report notes that the state has spent just enough to match federal public health funding, leaving local health department scrambling for funds to do little more than their required duties.

Why wouldn’t this be a campaign issue? Why is it that public health is seldom even mentioned in policy debates?

Eric Lupher, president of the CRC, concludes, “While the state has been engaged in a very successful Pure Michigan campaign to promote the state as a place to live, work, and play, its neglect of public health services creates negative press that often washes out the benefits of the promotional campaign. It detracts from the state’s investments in workforce development and job training. And it inflates healthcare costs that are high to begin with.”

Dennis Archambault is vice president, Public Affairs, at Authority Health.

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