Lab Matters Spring 2017 - Page 17

policy Hill Day 2017: Save the ELC by Nisha Quasba, intern, Public Policy A s the federal government transitions to a new administration and policies shift, APHL continues to advocate for public health laboratories (PHLs) on Capitol Hill. On March 6, APHL members and staff spent time in leadership offices of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Appropriations Committees of the Senate and House. The focus was the potential loss of the flexible laboratory funding provided by the Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) for Infectious Diseases Cooperative Agreement, which is funded through the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). APHL’s presence on the Hill became more critical the morning of Hill Day, when the House Ways and Means Committee announced the mark-up of the budget reconciliation recommendation to repeal and replace ACA would commence that week.  e really got to point out some important roles of the W state labs…and start to think about the rare things all the funding is meant to look for that otherwise wouldn’t be on our radar. (From left to right): Dr. Chris Whelen, Dr. Jennifer Rakeman-Cagno, Dr. Denise Toney and Dr. Sara Vetter Jennifer Rakeman-Cagno, PhD, assistant commissioner of New York City’s PHL, spoke about an influenza outbreak of a rare avian strain in a cat shelter this past winter. She illustrated the course of the outbreak response: identifying infected cats, contacting staff and cat adopters from the shelter, and assembling a team to tackle the large volume of specimens. In every office, she reiterated that only with ELC funding was she able to assemble such a quick and contained response—cases were controlled within a matter of weeks and human infection was limited to one individual. Dr. Sarah Vetter, Minnesota PHL’s infectious disease manager, explained how ELC funding allowed her laboratory to get new equipment during the Zika outbreak, permitting Minnesota to absorb the burden of accepting specimens from neighboring states. Director of Hawaii’s PHL and APHL President Chris Whelen, PhD, highlighted the advantages of whole genome sequencing, such as the key role it played in identifying a strain of gonorrhea that otherwise had no epidemiological correlation with other known outbreaks, and how ELC funding supported the research. Congressional staffers appeared to understand the value of the funds, but opinions were mixed about designating a permanent source of funding. Republican staffers suggested the fund could be appropriated through sources outside of the ACA, while their Democratic colleagues seemed skeptical of this solution. The final meeting of the day was with the staff from the House Oversight Committee under the Energy and Commerce Committee, where members were questioned about a range of topics including international outbreaks, antibiotic resistance and biosecurity. After the last meeting, Dr. Denise Toney, director of Virginia’s PHL, said, “This was a good meeting because we really got to point out some important roles of the state labs…and start to think about the rare things all the funding is meant to look for that otherwise wouldn’t be on our radar.” Sara Vetter and a Hill staffer discuss last year's Zika outbreak PublicHealthLabs @APHL DIGITAL EXTRA: Listen to the Lab Culture podcast that recaps Hill Day 2017. Spring 2017 LAB MATTERS 15