As reported by the Empire, the threat of a measles outbreak is just a cruise ship or an airplane away.
Fortunately, state Public Health Nurses are trained and ready to respond, cooperating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, providing recommendations, administering immunizations and coordinating supplies and care with health care providers statewide.
Unlike other states, for the most part, Alaska lacks local public health authorities, therefore Public Health Nurses are responsible for providing local preventive health care and community-based services for disease prevention, public health emergency response and improving local health across the entire state.
Unfortunately, the capacity for Public Health Nursing to respond to public health emergencies is diminishing. Over the past four years, the Public Health Nursing budget has been cut $5.8 million, forcing the closure of 27 percent of local public health centers, the elimination of 21 percent of staff and some essential services.
If Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed $2 million cut to Public Health Nursing happens this year, it will suffer a 30 percent decrease to its budget over recent years, endangering the public’s health and risking the spread of infectious diseases. According to the CDC, “measles can be extremely costly and disruptive to public health, costing an average of around $32,000 per case.”
As stated in the Alaska Constitution, “The Legislature shall provide for the promotion and protection of public health.” Let’s hope the Legislature appropriates the necessary funding that is vital to protecting and improving the health of Alaskans.
Board Member, Alaska Public Health Association
• My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.