Former state health officials decry public health bills


Rashad Jones, lead health educator, speaks during the 2011 BRAZEN Winter Rally hosted by the Marion County Health Department and held at Howard Middle School on Monday, Dec., 19, 2011.

File photo
Published: Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 2:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 2:14 p.m.

We wish to bring attention to two harmful bills currently active in the House and Senate. CS/CS/CS House Bill 1263 sponsored by Matt Hudson (R-Naples) who chairs the House Health Care Appropriation Committee and CS/CS Senate Bill 1824 sponsored by Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) who chairs the Senate Health Regulation Committee. Both bills are designed to reorganize Florida's public health effort with negative impact for environmental health oversight, wellness programs, tuberculosis management, and funding.

Core preventive health efforts include environmental regulation, wellness programs, maternal and child health efforts, and communicable disease. Proposed is the elimination of the Division of Environmental Health, which represents critical professional oversight to protect residents and has a history of professional competence.

The closure of A.G. Holley Tuberculosis Hospital is found within both bills. Note that Florida ranks fourth nationally for tuberculosis. As we are a port entry state with a fluid immigrant population, Floridians face continual risk to this dreaded disease. A.G. Holley Hospital has provided decades of service to capture and manage tuberculosis cases with a national reputation for excellence. The loss of this hospital would have grave implications for the community's health and the potential spread of this disease. There is no clear strategy to ensure that ill tuberculosis patients will be aggressively treated elsewhere.

Added weakening of Florida's public health system occurs with deemphasis on preventive health programs targeted to reducing obesity, diabetes, hypertension, asthma, heart disease, stroke and cancer. These programs reduce illness and are cost effective in combating disease, disability, and premature death.

Both bills specify that it is no longer the duty of Florida's Surgeon General, who heads the Department of Health, to serve as the leading authority for wellness and disease prevention efforts, including the promotion of healthful lifestyles, immunization practices, and health literacy.

House Bill 1263 and Senate Bill 1824 undermine Florida's public health effort to protect citizens from serious communicable disease and environmental regulation. With the growing population of the uninsured, a faltering economy, and a large immigrant population, this is a time to strengthen Florida's public health effort not weaken it.

We, the undersigned, express our concern that these potential actions by the legislature will harm Florida residents, prove more costly in the long run, and further burden the health of local communities.

Signed:

E. Charlton Prather, M.D., M.P.H,

Former state health officer

Charles Mahan, M.D.,

Former Director,

Florida State Health Department

Former Dean,

College of Public Health, University of South Florida

Ed Feaver,

Former Secretary

Health and Rehabilitative Services

and Department of Children and Families

Robert B. Williams,

Former Secretary

Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services

Richard G. Hunter, Ph.D.

Former deputy state health officer

Landis Crockett, M.D., M.P.H.,

Retired Director

Division of Disease Control

Florida Department. of Health

Marc J. Yacht MD, MPH,

Retired Director,

Pasco County Health Department

Richard Polangin,

Retired,

Department of Health

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top