Funding cuts for public health strike at heart of safeguards

Your Dec. 18 editorial “Amid Cabinet shake-up, Patrick dismisses criticism too easily” misdiagnoses the causes of the recent epidemic due to fungal contamination of drugs and the falsification of results at the state drug-testing laboratory. Such problems will not be prevented by changes of Cabinet members or other senior public health leaders. The circumstances leading to these events must be scrutinized in detail to identify specific procedures that might reduce the likelihood of recurrence. However, more fundamentally, the dramatic reductions in funding of public health in Massachusetts over the last decade have eroded the state’s ability to monitor and safeguard our food, water, air, and drug supply and, at the same time, continue to provide the multitude of other functions necessary for the well-being of our population. Until we are willing to fund these efforts adequately, future epidemics and breakdowns should be expected.

Dr. Walter Willett


The writer is professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health.