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Report: States can improve health outcomes by investing in public services

A report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says states and localities can improve residents’ health by investing more in education, the environment, infrastructure and other public services.

The report found that investing in these vital services can eliminate barriers to good health, especially for low-income residents and communities of color.

Among the suggestions in the report are expanding Medicaid to improve access to affordable health care, leveraging Medicaid to improve case management and supportive housing, enacting social and economic policies known to improve health and improving state and local tax systems so they are based more on a person’s ability to pay.

Alabama Arise says one thing the state could do to meet the report’s suggestions would be to end the state’s grocery tax and to expand Medicaid to cover more than 340,000 additional adults with low incomes.

“Good health and good quality of life go hand in hand,” said Alabama Arise executive director Robyn Hyden. “By investing in Medicaid and public transportation and making our tax system more progressive, Alabama can build a stronger, healthier, more prosperous future for everyone.”

The report found the ways state and local governments raise revenue actually have significant impacts for health outcomes because of their connections between poverty, inequality and health.

“In nearly every state, state and local tax systems require the poorest residents to pay more in taxes as a share of their income than the richest residents, an upside-down system that makes it even harder for the residents facing the greatest barriers to live healthy lives,” the report found.

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Black people in Alabama die three years earlier than white residents, on average.

Black babies in Alabama are twice as likely as white babies to be born with low birth weight, and they are twice as likely to die before their first birthdays

The report found lack of investment on the part of states into programs that would improve health and wellbeing have made racial inequality worse in the U.S. and has led to a population that is less healthy than it could be.

“If Alabama really wants to improve the health of its residents, policymakers must prioritize education, housing, the environment, infrastructure, health programs and other public investments in their budgets,” said CBPP senior policy analyst Jennifer Sullivan.


Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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