March 10, 2021

Duckworth, Durbin Join Colleagues to Introduce Bill to Improve and Maintain Public Health Infrastructure

Public Health Infrastructure Saves Lives Act would establish a dedicated $4.5 billion fund to build and maintain nation’s public health infrastructure at every level


[WASHINGTON D.C] Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and 14 Democratic Senate colleagues to introduce the Public Health Infrastructure Saves Lives Act (PHISLA). The legislation would establish a new core public health infrastructure program, which ramps up to $4.5 billion in annual funding to bolster the nation’s efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, and strengthen its ability to respond to other public health challenges going forward.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen the need for more funding for our hospitals, healthcare workers and public health infrastructure to ensure all Americans have access to reliable care,” Duckworth said. “As we work to continue recovering from the pandemic, we must help ensure that our State, local and tribal governments have the infrastructure in place to help protect Americans against public health crises now and in the future. This legislation will help provide much-needed resources to our communities.”

“This pandemic has shown us that public health should be treated like national security. We must put forward serious investments to strengthen the systems we currently have in place and provide communities more assistance. This bill takes what we’ve learned from the heroic leadership of our Illinois health departments over the past year and makes smart investments to maintain America’s public health infrastructure so we can be prepared for the next crisis. The stronger our public health strategies are, the healthier we will be,” Durbin said.

The re-introduction of PHISLA comes as Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) released its annual report earlier today evaluating the nation’s public health emergency preparedness. After evaluating each states’ performance on 10 key emergency preparedness indicators, TFAH found room for improvement in every jurisdiction. It placed 20 states and the District of Columbia in a high level of preparedness category, 15 states in a middle preparation tier and 15 states in a low degree of preparation tier. In its federal recommendations, the report calls for $4.5 billion in sustained annual investments in cross-cutting health capabilities—as proposed in PHISLA.

PHISLA would establish a core public health infrastructure program to strengthen the country’s public health system—including the nation’s ability to respond to the COVID–19 pandemic—through grants to State, territorial, local, and Tribal health departments and increased investments at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The bill also supports development and implementation of national public health accreditation. The funding for the program would ramp up over five years to $4.5 billion annually and then remain at that level, and the program would be aimed at specifically addressing eight core capabilities:

  1. Public health assessment
  2. Preparedness and response
  3. Policy development and support
  4. Communications
  5. Community partnership development
  6. Organizational competencies
  7. Accountability
  8. Equity

PHISLA was co-sponsored by: Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Robert Casey (D-PA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

PHISLA has been endorsed by over 120 organizations including:

Trust for America's Health, AFSCME, American Academy of Nursing, American Association for Clinical Chemistry, American Association for Respiratory Care, American Association on Health and Disability, American Clinical Laboratory Association, American College of Clinical Pharmacy, American Federation of Teachers, American Health Information Management Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Medical Student Association, American Physical Therapy Association, American Public Health Association, American Society for Clinical Pathology, American Society for Microbiology, American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, Arthritis Foundation, Asian & Pacific Islander Health Forum, Association for Prevention Teaching and Research, Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Association of American Medical Colleges, Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, Association of State and Territorial Chronic Disease Program Directors, Association of State And Territorial Health Officials, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Behavioral Health Association of Providers, Big Cities Health Coalition, Bipartisan Policy Center, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Cancer Support Community, Caring Ambassadors Program, Cascade AIDS Project, Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE), Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement & Research, Child Development Institute, Coalition on Human Needs, Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service, Inc. (COA), Common Threads, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County, CTIPP, Delaware Academy of Medicine and the Delaware Public Health Association, Dorchester County Health Department, Endocrine Society, Entomological Society of America, Epic Systems, Epilepsy Alliance America, Epilepsy Foundation, Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice, Hawaii Health & Harm Reduction Center, Hawaii State Rural Health Association, Health in Justice Action Lab, Northeastern University, Healthcare Leadership Council, Healthcare Ready, Hep Free Hawaii, HIV + Hepatitis Policy Institute, Illinois Public Health Association, In the Public Interest, International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium, Johnson County Public Health, IA, Jump IN for Healthy Kids, Kansas City Health Department, Lafayette County Health Depart, Lakeshore Foundation, Lanai Community Health Center, Louisiana Public Health Institute, Lupus and Allied Diseases Association, Inc., Maine Public Health Association, March of Dimes, NASTAD, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, National Association of County and City Health Officials, National Association of Local Boards of Health, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, National Athletic Trainers' Association, National Capital Area Society for Public Health Education, National Center for Health Research, National Environmental Health Association, National Forum for Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention, National League for Nursing, National Network of Public Health Institutes, National Nurse-Led Care Consortium, National Tuberculosis Controllers Association (NTCA), National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, National WIC Association, National Women's Health Network, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Nevada Public Health Association, New Jersey Public Health Association, New York State Public Health Association, Nurse-Family Partnership, Partnership for Better Health, Partnership for Public Health, Peggy Lillis Foundation, Prevent Blindness, Prevention Institute, PSR Arizona (NFP), Public Health Accreditation Board, Public Health Foundation, Public Health Management Corporation, Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness GWU, Research!America, Safe States Alliance, Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Society for Public Health Education, Southern California Public Health Association, Spina Bifida Association, Tahoe Health LLC, The AIDS Institute, The Consortium, The Family Resource Network, The Gerontological Society of America, The Immunization Partnership, The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, Union for Reform Judaism, University of Maryland School of Public Health, University of Washington  School of Public Health, Unmarried, Single But Not Alone, LLC, Washington State Board of Health, Washington State Department of Health, Washington State Public Health Association, Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards, Wisconsin Public Health Association, WSALPHO.

PDF of the full bill text here.

Full report from TFAH on nation’s preparedness for public health emergencies here.