Flu funding could go to states

Obama, state advocates want to route funds to local authorities

Some of the $1.5 billion that the Obama administration has requested to fight the H1N1 virus — the cause of the swine flu outbreak — could go to state public health disease tracking and monitoring programs.

The anti-flu funds requested in the supplemental spending bill would assist states in monitoring, diagnosing and responding to the disease, according to an April 28 White House letter to Congress. Monitoring technologies typically include systems, software and networks to detect new cases, send alerts, flag new and suspected cases, and track how the disease is spreading.

The supplemental money also would pay to replenish antiviral stockpiles, ramp up vaccine production, purchase medical supplies and support global efforts, President Barack Obama wrote.

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, which represents state health agencies, has similar priorities. On April 29, the group released a list of $1 billion in H1N1 flu-related programs for which it is requesting support from the supplemental appropriation. The total includes $563 million for antiviral drugs and personal protective equipment for health workers, $350 million for state and local planning and response infrastructures and staffing, and $122 million for state antiviral stockpiles.

Obama is willing to be flexible and allow for priorities to shift and reflect new developments regarding the spread of the virus and its severity, said Dr. W. Craig Vanderwagen, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Health and Human Services Department. Vanderwagen testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee April 30.

It is too early to determine how to best distribute the funding to states because the patterns of the spreading illness are not yet clear but will become clearer soon, said Dr. Harry Greenspun, chief medical officer at Perot Systems' health care group.

“We need to know where and how it is spreading,” Greenspun said. “If it turns out to have a regional pattern, the funding may need to be focused regionally.”

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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