Report: State lags in public health spending

Georgia ranks 37th among states in per capita spending on public health, according to a newly released report.

Healthcare Cost

The $18.48 that Georgia spent per capita on public health in fiscal years 2013 and 2014 is less than half the funding in some other Southeastern states, such as $59.22 in Alabama, $47.94 in Arkansas and $43.97 in Tennessee.

The Georgia public health budget did exceed those in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina, said the report, released this week by the Trust for America’s Health.

Georgia’s per capita amount increased from the $18.08 per capita amount spent in 2012-2013.

The report found that nationally, combined federal, state and local public health spending is below pre-recession levels at $75.4 billion in 2013 –- or $239 per person compared to $241 per person in 2009.

Georgia has a heavy disease burden, including high rates of HIV, hypertension, diabetes, tuberculosis, and low-birthweight babies. The state also has large percentages of people living in poverty and without health insurance.

“There is a direct relationship between what we spend and the outcomes we achieve,’’ said Marsha Davis, an associate dean at the University of Georgia’s College of Public
Health. “In the long run, the costs of poor health outcomes far outweigh the costs of prevention.

“Clearly funding for public health needs to be increased at all levels — federal, state, and local,” Davis said. “And we in Georgia, particularly, need to be advocates for more population health investments. This is critical for the health of Georgians and the economic viability of the state.”

In response to a query from GHN about the report, a Department of Public Health spokeswoman, Nancy Nydam, said in an email, “The governor and the Legislature have strongly supported the Department of Public Health through increased funding for such initiatives as local public health services, early diagnosis of autism, Alzheimer’s disease and hepatitis surveillance. The Department of Public Health is extremely grateful for this funding, which will impact the health of Georgians now and in generations to come.”


The report said federal funding for public health has remained relatively flat for years. The budget for the CDC has decreased from a high of $7.07 billion in FY 2005 to $6.93 billion in FY 2015.

The CDC allocated $23.78 in public health spending per capita in Georgia in fiscal 2014, ranking the state 17th. That amount was a reduction from the $21.03 spent the year before.

The new report is the 10th of its kind from the Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit organization based in Washington.

The report urged that core funding for public health at the federal, state and local levels be increased.

“Stable, sufficient, dedicated funding is needed to support public health emergencies and major disease outbreaks — so the country is not caught unprepared for threats ranging from Ebola to an act of bioterror — and is better equipped to reduce ongoing threats such as the flu, foodborne illnesses and measles,” the report said.