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Public Health Spending in 2008: On the Challenge of Integrating PHSSR Data Sets and the Need for Harmonization

Leider, Jonathon P. BA/BS; Sellers, Katie DrPH, CPH; Shah, Gulzar PhD, MStat, MS; Pearsol, Jim MEd; Jarris, Paul E. MD, MBA

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice: July/August 2012 - Volume 18 - Issue 4 - p 355–363
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e31824c60d7
Original Articles

In recent years, state and local public health department budgets have been cut, sometimes drastically. However, there is no systematic tracking of governmental public health spending that would allow researchers to assess these cuts in comparison with governmental public health spending as a whole. Furthermore, attempts to quantify the impact of public health spending are limited by the lack of good data on public health spending on state and local public health services combined. The objective of this article is to integrate self-reported state and local health department (LHD) survey data from 2 major national organizations to create state-level estimates of governmental public health spending. To create integrated estimates, we selected 1388 LHDs and 46 states that had reported requisite financial information. To account for the nonrespondent LHDs, estimates of the spending were developed by using appropriate statistical weights. Finally, funds from federal pass-through and state sources were estimated for LHDs and subtracted from the total spending by the state health agency to avoid counting these dollars in both state and local figures. On average, states spend $106 per capita on traditional public health at the state and local level, with an average of 42% of spending occurring at the local level. Considerable variation exists in state and local public health funding. The results of this analysis show a relatively low level of public health funding compared with state Medicaid spending and health care more broadly.

This article integrates self-reported state and local health department survey data from 2 major national organizations to create state-level estimates of governmental public health spending.

Office of Public Health Practice & Training, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland (Mr Leider); Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Arlington, Virginia (Drs Sellers and Jarris, and Mr Pearsol); and Department of Health Policy and Management, Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro (Dr Shah).

Correspondence: Jonathon P. Leider, BA/BS, Office of Public Health Practice & Training, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, 615 N. Wolfe St, Baltimore, MD 21205 (jleider@jhsph.edu).

This article was developed with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The authors thank Briana Bierschbach and Leah Ramsay for their assistance in copyediting, and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful contributions.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.