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Missouri And Kansas Rank Low On Public Health Spending, Report Shows

Missouri spends the least on public health per person in the country, according to a new report out from the non-partisan Trust for America's Health. 

The Show-Me state spent just $5.86 per person, compared with a national average of $27.49, in fiscal 2013, the report says.

“Missouri’s been challenged and, like many states, has to cut their budget for public health,” says Dr. George Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “But I think the problem with these cuts is they really erode the infrastructure.”

Benjamin says the low spending diminishes the ability of local health organizations to address Missouri’s problem health areas, including high rates of smoking, obesity and sedentary lifestyles.

Kansas doesn't spend much more on public health than its eastern neighbor, weighing in at 44th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. In fiscal 2013, the state spent $14.07 per person, according to the Trust for America's Health report.

Dr. Robert St. Peter, president and CEO of the Kansas Health Institute, says the low public health expenditures hit vulnerable populations especially hard.

“Kansas ranked at the bottom in terms of spending on maternal and child health," St. Peter says. "That’s particularly concerning, given the relatively high rates of infant mortality and particularly the high rates among African-American populations in our state.”

In contrast to Missouri and Kansas, Hawaii spent $144.99 per person for public health in fiscal 2013 - the most of any state.  

The Trust for America's Health report also shows that Kansas and Missouri received less federal health funding per-person than most states.

In fiscal 2013, Kansas got $48,175,621, or $16.65 per person, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control - 42nd among the 50 states. 

Missouri fared worse, ranking just below Kansas at 43. The state received $96,887,914, or $16.03 per person, from the CDC.

The majority of CDC funding in both states went to children’s vaccinations.

Kansas also ranked near the bottom, 46th, in grants from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The state got $43,697,927, or $15.10 per person, in fiscal 2013.

The grants mainly support primary health care.

Missouri ranked 26th, receiving $132,545,401, or $21.93 per person.

The CDC and HRSA are two of the largest funders of public health programs in the United States.

Benjamin says the cuts at the state and federal levels reflect a trend that accelerated during the recession.

“We’re not seeing a return of funding to public health at the local level yet, and that’s a real tragedy because that’s setting us up for real problems,” he says. 

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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