Public Health Leaders Will Visit Congress and Stress the Need to Invest in Infrastructure, the WIC Program, and Island Priorities

Members of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) will gather in Washington, D.C. this week to advocate for critical investments in public health infrastructure, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and stronger island health systems.

Health officials are expected to stress the importance of a strong public health system, building on post-COVID-19 investments in state, territorial, and island jurisdiction health agencies during their meetings with members of Congress and key officials at the Capitol. ASTHO requests Congress sustain funding of $350 million in FY24 and invest $1 billion or about $3 per person in the U.S. in FY25 for vital public health infrastructure. This urgently needed, flexible, disease-agnostic, sustainable funding is crucial for building a resilient system that protects all Americans.

“The nation can’t afford another boom-and-bust or panic-neglect cycle, especially after all we learned from the COVID pandemic,” says Michael Fraser, PhD, ASTHO CEO. “Emergency funding surges during crises, then disappears, leaving us unprepared for the next threat. Sustained funding matters. We are grateful Congress has taken steps over the years to invest in public health infrastructure and it is critical that these funds are maintained and increased to continue to meet evolving national healthcare needs. We are talking about less than the price of a cup of coffee a year for every American to support states and the islands to continue to build the public health system we need in the years ahead.”

ASTHO is also urging Congress to provide full funding for the WIC program in the final FY24 appropriations bill. WIC could face a $1 billion shortfall in 2024, resulting in a significant reduction in participation, that will disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic families if Congress maintains the current funding level for WIC. The impact of cuts would force states to limit participation and possibly establish waiting lists or turn away eligible individuals from the program.

Senior leadership from the Atlantic and Pacific United States territories and freely associated states (FAS) will meet with key Congressional and federal partners to address unique healthcare challenges. Two challenges are at the center of their agenda: seeking a legislative change to achieve Medicaid funding for the United States territories in parity with state Medicaid funding structures and ensuring critical health financing is available to the FAS through an extension of the Compacts of Free Association.

“ASTHO’s Spring Meeting is a critical convening for United States territories and freely associated state leaders to advocate for their priorities. We look forward to working with members of Congress and with federal agencies to find solutions to island health equity challenges,” says Dr. Esther Muna, CEO of the Commonwealth of the Marianas Islands Healthcare Corporation and chair of the ASTHO Insular Affairs Committee and Director on the ASTHO Board.

For more information about ASTHO’s advocacy, view ASTHO’s 2024 Federal Legislative Agenda.

To request and interview with an ASTHO member or member of the ASTHO leadership team, contact [email protected].

ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and freely associated states, and Washington, D.C., as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.

SOURCE Association of State and Territorial Health Officials

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