Recipients of tobacco funds set
Programs to improve the health of minorities and children, plus raise Lincoln's readiness to address bioterrorism, will be funded from the local share of tobacco settlement money, Mayor Don Wesely said Monday.
Nebraska's share of the tobacco settlement was placed in an endowment with interest directed at improving public health for at least 25 years.
"I hope the commitment is there forever," said Wesely, who during his time in the Legislature worked to create the endowment.
The tobacco funds will provide the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department with about $608,500 annually. Local programs created from that money will work specifically to improve Health Department infrastructure, improve environmental planning, raise public awareness of health issues, create a grant-writing position and better manage statistical data to uncover health trends.
A key target for the health funding is better health for minorities, Wesely said.
"One of the real travesties in our country today, and in our state and community as well, is the disparity of the health of white Americans and nonwhite Americans," he said.
While it may be hard to see how the new programs address that, "You have to have a base infrastructure to do the public health work that needs to be done," he said.
Another key focus will be bioterrorism.
"We do have some federal funding that has helped us prepare for any biological weapon threat we might face," Wesely said. But the recent anthrax scare pointed out gaps.
"We had so many calls and so much concern that we found ourselves having difficulty keeping up," he said. The new money will fund a coordinator to pull different resources together in dealing with biological threats, he said. Even though the anthrax scare has quieted, Wesely said, it probably won't be the last.
Of the total $608,500, at least $150,000 must be used to build public health infrastructure, including health status assessment, public health policy development and ensuring public health services are delivered to all populations. The remaining $458,500 will be used to create new programs that:
Better coordinate environmental public health land-use issues among governmental entities.
Fund "Lincoln On The Move," a chronic-disease prevention program directed at promoting physical activity, preventing obesity and encouraging dental health screenings. A high priority will be placed on reaching youth.
Improve the Health Department's capacity to manage health data and report health status indicators and program results.
Hire a resource development coordinator to pursue additional funding, such as grants from foundations and other state and federal programs. Creating a grant writer could have a long-term effect on local health efforts, Wesely said.
"In health care there are a ton of grants available," he said. "We really think that this will enhance public health funding significantly."