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essential public health functions, local governments, national health expenditures, public health



  1. Sensenig, Arthur L. MA


Providing for the delivery of public health services and understanding the funding mechanisms for these services are topics of great currency in the United States. In 2002, the Department of Homeland Security was created and the responsibility for providing public health services was realigned among federal agencies. State and local public health agencies are under increased financial pressures even as they shoulder more responsibilities as the vital first link in the provision of public health services. Recent events, such as hurricanes Katrina and Rita, served to highlight the need to accurately access the public health delivery system at all levels of government. The National Health Expenditure Accounts (NHEA), prepared by the National Health Statistics Group, measure expenditures on healthcare goods and services in the United States. Government public health activity constitutes an important service category in the NHEA. In the most recent set of estimates, Government Public Health Activity expenditures totaled $56.1 billion in 2004, or 3.0 percent of total US health spending. Accurately measuring expenditures for public health services in the United States presents many challenges. Among these challenges is the difficult task of defining what types of government activity constitute public health services. There is no clear-cut, universally accepted definition of government public health care services, and the definitions in the proposed International Classification for Health Accounts are difficult to apply to an individual country's unique delivery systems. Other challenges include the definitional issues associated with the boundaries of healthcare as well as the requirement that census and survey data collected from government(s) be compliant with the Classification of Functions of Government (COFOG), an internationally recognized classification system developed by the United Nations.