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The Affordable Care Act and Funding for Public Health Programs

posted on Wed, Sep 21 2011 11:26 am by Corey Davis


The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is aimed primarily at improving individual health by increasing access to affordable health insurance, but it also contains a number of provisions targeted at improving health at the population level. These provisions are designed to modernize public health systems, increase access to clinical preventive services, spur the creation of healthier communities and support innovation in public health.

A key component in these efforts is the provision of grant funding to states, territories, municipalities, tribal and community organizations for public health initiatives. While the ACA creates a number of special funding streams, the largest source of ACA-funded public health activities is a fund created by the Act specifically for that purpose. Called the Prevention and Public Health Fund, this repository is designed to provide capital for national investment in prevention and public health programs, and is funded with amounts increasing from $500 million in FY2010 increasing to $2 billion in FY2015 and thereafter.

Some grants from this fund have already been awarded, with more to come. The initial round of $500 million was awarded in the first year after the ACA was signed. In February 2011 HHS announced how the $750 million in funding allocated for FY2011 will be awarded. This funding will be directed mainly at four key areas: Community Prevention ($298 million), Clinical Prevention ($182 million), Public Health Infrastructure ($137 million) and Research and Tracking ($133 million).

At the end of August 2011, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced specifics of the funds awarded to strengthen the public health infrastructure and provide jobs in core areas of public health. These grants, which included funding from the Prevention and Public Health Fund as well as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, will help provide tobacco cessation services, strengthen public health laboratory and immunization services, prevent healthcare-associated infections and provide comprehensive substance abuse prevention and treatment. This grant funding will also support 10 Public Health Training Centers at accredited schools of public health and other public or non-profit institutions and enable the hiring of 116 public health professionals.

The process of choosing worthy public health projects to fund in FY2012 is currently underway. In May 2011 the CDC announced that it would fund up to 75 Community Transformation Grants under this fund over the next five years to support community-level, evidence-based preventive health activities. Applications for these funds were due July 15. Other funding opportunities will be forthcoming.

As with many undertakings, this is a starting point. Yet, the investments made by the ACA’s Prevention and Public Health Fund are substantial, and have the potential to pay dividends for years to come.

This information was developed by Corey Davis, staff attorney, for the Network for Public Health Law – Southeastern Region at National Health Law Program.

The Network for Public Health Law provides information and technical assistance on issues related to public health. The legal information and assistance provided in this document does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, readers should consult a lawyer in their state.

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