Ga. cheap when it comes to public health

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imageIn the wake of the reports last month that showed Georgia is a leader in HIV infections, this piece of news is a little less surprising: The state ranks 39th in spending per resident on public health.

Federal agencies, nonprofit groups and the state’s own documents depict a public health system that lacks sufficient money and, at times, basic competencies, an examination by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found.

Georgia ranks 39th among the states in spending per resident on public health, despite having the nation’s ninth-largest economic output. Its state public health laboratory could identify the sources of fewer than four in 10 foodborne illness outbreaks from 2004 to 2006, the 35th-lowest rate in the country.

At the same time, state health officers face lingering problems that also pose serious threats. Georgians are more likely than the residents of almost every other state to suffer from communicable and chronic diseases: AIDS, syphilis, tuberculosis and diabetes, among many others.

With Georgia spending $18.33 per resident on public health — compared to the national median of $33.71 or even the $58.46 of neighboring Alabama — it’s no wonder that of the 48 U.S. counties with the highest rate of HIV infection, 25 of them are in Georgia. That’s in addition to the nugget that Fulton County has the highest prevalence of HIV among metro Atlanta counties.

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