White House Seeks More Disease Control Funding

President Clinton's new proposal will increase the amount the federal government spends to fight infectious disease by 50 percent.

In an effort to protect American's health and control health care costs, the Clinton Administration said Monday that it will propose a nearly 50 percent increase in the amount the federal government spends to fight infectious disease.

The proposed $20 million increase, part of President Clinton's 2001 fiscal budget, would improve the nation's ability to target, contain, control and prevent outbreaks of infectious disease, such as influenza, Lyme disease and hantavirus.

The funds would be used to speed the development of a national electronic disease surveillance network.

The increased funding supplements the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's current budget for the project of $44.3 million.

According to a White House statement, this network will develop a two-way information highway that will ensure the timely transmission of information from physicians and health facilities on the front lines to state health departments and the CDC in order to rapidly assimilate information, pinpoint outbreaks and alert health care providers of potential infectious disease threats.

If Congress approves it this year, the increased funding will also help support public-private partnerships "to ensure that commercial labs implement an electronic reporting system compatible with the federal one already under development," said the White House.

According to the White House, pilot projects implementing this type of system in seven states have indicated significant increases -- some as high as 230 percent -- in reporting of infectious disease.

Between 1973 and 1999, more than 35 newly emerging infectious diseases were identified, including AIDS and toxic shock syndrome.

"The emergence of West-Nile like virus along the East Coast this year, and the recent emergence of a novel strain of influenza pandemic in Hong Kong underscore the ongoing threat that infectious disease pose to our health and the increasing impact they have on health care costs," the White House Statement said.

Approximately one of every six domestic health care dollars is spent on infectious diseases, and infectious complications in hospitals add about $20 billion to the national health care bill annually, added the White House.

Such diseases account for about one-quarter of all doctor visits, according to federal estimates.

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