The case for reshaping public health

Bill would address structure, staffing, financing

AS THE PRESIDENT of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, I spend a lot of time considering ways to reduce health care costs.  In my opinion, the best way to reduce health care costs is not to incur them at all. A well-functioning public health system can be an effective tool for reducing healthcare costs, improving the health and extending the lives of Massachusetts residents by protecting them from a wide variety of health threats, from drinking water contamination to food poisoning and infectious disease. By investing in this kind of prevention, we can make our communities safer and avoid unnecessary healthcare costs.

Just before the pandemic, I had the honor to serve on the Special Commission on Regional and Local Public Health. I’ve been on many commissions, and this was among the most productive.  The members of this commission represented a broad array of stakeholders representing different perspectives, areas of expertise and experiences who approached this with an open-mind. By listening and learning from each other over the course of two years, we were able to offer a series of balanced, thoughtful and comprehensive recommendations that advanced our charge, which was to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of municipal and regional public health systems and to make recommendations for strengthening the delivery of public health services and preventive measures.

Meet the Author

Eileen McAnneny

President, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation
Those recommendations are currently in a bill that sits before the legislature, H.4328 the Statewide Accelerated Public Health for Every Community (SAPHE 2.0) Act. The SAPHE 2.0 Act will improve our local public health system to ensure that it is adequately structured, staffed, and financed to meet large scale public health challenges. As the pandemic made quite clear, a strong and robust public health system is vital to our collective good health and to a strong economy.

Passing the SAPHE 2.0 legislation will continue the work we have done to date, working with the legislature, the Administration, and municipalities, to build and invest in a stronger public health system.  SAPHE 2.0 lays the blueprint for a more effective and efficient local public health system and is a worthwhile use of the state’s resources.

Eileen McAnneny is president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation and a member of the Special Commission on Regional and Local Public Health.