Dr. Hasbrouck Advocates for Zika Funding at Capitol Hill Event

“The money and the resources have to make it to the local level where the rubber meets the road.”

On September 7, 2016, Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck delivered an impassioned address in the U.S. Capitol Building in support of a bipartisan Zika funding bill. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) requested NACCHO’s representation at the media briefing.  Joining them were:

  • Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY), Ranking Member, House Appropriations Committee
  • Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Ranking Member, Labor, Health, Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, House Appropriations Committee
  • Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Ranking Member, Legislative Branch Subcommittee, House Appropriations Committee
  • Representative Frederica Wilson (D-FL)
  • Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Health Association
  • Katherine Neas, Vice President of Government Relations, Easterseals
  • Emily Holubowich, Executive Director, Coalition for Health Funding (with baby Jacquline Holubowich)

Dr. Hasbrouck began his remarks expressing the need for a coordinated national response of federal resources and funding delivered to state and local health departments  to fight Zika.  He stressed the impact on NACCHO’s members.  “I cannot overemphasize the concept of localness because it is the local health departments that are in fact delegated the authority and responsibility to respond locally like in Miami- Dade County,” said Hasbrouck.  “We are the ones on the front lines vaccinating for H1N1, using our quarantine power around Ebola and now mosquito response and control for Zika.  So the money and the resources have to make it to the local level where the rubber meets the road.”

Hasbrouck drew an appreciative response from his fellow speakers as he described the damaging effects of the decrease of federal funding over the past five years.

​“This funding has targeted emergency preparedness which includes mosquito control and abatement activities. This is a big problem because more than half of the local health departments across our nation depend solely on this federal funding. No federal funding, no response.”

Calling the CDC’s shift in Public Health Emergency Preparedness funding a “temporary band-aid” offering short-term relief but leading to long-term negative effects for local health departments, Hasbrouck cited results from NACCHO’s national study. “Without new funding and restoration of the funding that has already been shifted, we are going to further compromise our local health departments, our front line workers from responding to this in a number of different ways.” 

These limitations include a reduced capacity to support mosquito control and surveillance; the inability to send workers on site, door-to-door canvassing in certain neighborhoods; the lack of manpower to determine the presence of Zika in local communities; overwhelmed labs unable to monitor individuals infected with Zika including pregnant women and a reduced ability to respond to new outbreaks.

Hasbrouck went on to emphasize the fact that the usual duties of local health departments have not stopped in the face of Zika.  “Even though we have Zika, everything is still happening in the world of public health,” he said.  “We still have seasonal flu, and immunizations and other things.  So we are shifting [our efforts], but we still have the job to do.”

He closed by asking the audience to consider the devastating effects of Zika on mothers and babies infected with the virus. “I can imagine few things more devastating than a pregnant woman who has a child with microcephaly or some other negative outcome and have to live the rest of her life and the family’s life to deal with that,” said Hasbrouck. “This is a crisis.  We are asking, we are imploring Congress to move forward in allocating these funds so that we can protect our nation’s communities.”

In her closing remarks, Leader Pelosi said, “To have a public health emergency that takes its biggest toll on children challenges our consciousness in a very different way.  How can [Republicans] look themselves in the eye when they have the power within their caucus to make a clean bill come to the floor?”

To view the entire press conference, please click here.