A new study commissioned by the Trust For America's Health (TFAH; Washington) shows the Midwest gets the least amount of funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; Atlanta) than any other part of the country.

The study, titled "Shortchanging America's Health: A State-By-State Look at How Federal Public Health Dollars Are Spent—2008," reviews key health statistics and federal funding for public health on a state-by-state level. It also brings out some telling discrepancies.

"We want to call attention to the fact that there are these large disparities [in funding], Richard Hamburg, director of TFAH, told Medical Device Daily. "This is the fourth time we've collected data for a study like this."

And in each case the study has yielded similar data, according to Hamburg.

"The only thing different about this study, is it is the first time we've looked at [the data] by a regional basis and found that the Midwest is funded $16 per capita and the southern states were receiving $30 per capita," he said.

About 80% of CDC funds are distributed to state and local health agencies through grants or cooperative agreement programs. CDC is the lead federal agency devoted to disease prevention and control. The agency distributes funds in two ways. One way is through formulas based on burden of disease or population, and another is through competitive processes where states and communities apply for limited funds.

One of the southern states that gets the lion's share of funding, according to the study is Georgia, home to CDC headquarters. The study ranks Georgia second in the country in the amount of money for CDC funding and the Peach State receives an average of $52.56 per person from the CDC (Alaska is ranked first at $69.76). The national average is at $17.23 per person.

Conversely Ohio, a staple of med-tech innovation in the Midwest, falls nearly $2 below the national average, at $15.08. Western states received the second-least, with an average of $19.74 per person. Northeastern states received an average of $23.37 per person.

When asked why there was such a discrepancy between CDC funding for each region Hamburg speculated on some reasons but pushed for the focus to be more on the prevention of these diseases and increased grant funding all across the board.

"There should be that direct correlation between illness occurrence and dollars spent, but I don't think that's necessarily the case here," he said referring to the study results between the Midwest and Southeast. "Some states do a better job on the grant application. But I think that too is just a small piece. Frankly there's just not enough funding to go around. I think what we really need is an increased amount of funding everywhere from state to state."

He added that more dollars needed to be spent toward illness prevention.

"For too long the country has focused on caring for people after they become sick instead of trying to prevent disease," said James Marks, MD, senior vice president and director of the health group at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Princeton, New Jersey). "Investing more in public health and prevention will help end skyrocketing medical care costs and ensure that all Americans live longer and healthier lives."

The TFAH said it is hoping that this study will prompt states to take more of an active role in public health. "We would like to see more of an investment from the states," Hamburg said.

The full report with state-by-state pages of health indicators and funding information is available on TFAH's web site, www.healthyamericans.org. The report was supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Regions are based on the U.S. Census Bureau definitions. Midwestern states include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Northeastern states include Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. Western states include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Southern states include Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. Washington, DC, was not included in the analysis.

Trust for America's Health is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority.