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PHI Statement on Funding for Zika Response

September 28, 2016

Statement from Nora connors, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC POLICY & PARTNERSHIPS at the public health institute

The Public Health Institute applauds Congress for moving forward on a continuing resolution (CR) that includes $1.1 billion to fight the Zika virus. The Zika provisions include funding for vaccine development, healthcare services and health centers, and maternal and childhood health grants. For communities battling the virus throughout the summer, the bill's boost is long overdue. It is also critical that the Zika funding did not come at the expense of other health issues. We appreciate the leadership of the March of Dimes, who helped keep the Zika funding front and center during negotiations.

Zika is an emerging crisis, and protecting the public's health will require a broad-based, collaborative approach. It is critical that we work towards the development of a vaccine, the prevention of transmission and providing ongoing medical support to pregnant women and children living in at-risk areas. We must also address the socio-economic and environmental factors that leave certain communities disproportionately vulnerable to Zika and other health risks.

The United States must act quickly—both for the health of U.S. residents and in our role as a global leader. PHI calls for a comprehensive approach that acknowledges and acts on the root causes of threats like the Zika virus: Our changing climate, resulting in new opportunities for the transmission of vector-borne diseases; a lack of access to a full suite of necessary, legal and effective reproductive health coverage including birth control and abortion; and deep-seated structural inequalities—such as racism and poverty—that result in unequal exposure and create barriers to effective prevention and treatment.

Communities like Flint, Michigan need their public health crises addressed, just as women seeking important health and contraceptive options need access to health care providers like Planned Parenthood. There is no health issue du jour: We need to continue to strengthen our permanent public health infrastructure so that we can fully support the current health needs of all communities, and stand ready and prepared to address new public threats as they arise.