Ohio’s Brown seeks global TB fund hike

Fought for, won small increase last year

An Ohio Congressman is fighting to increase the budget next year for international TB control from $25 million to $100 million. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), author of a proposal soon to be introduced as a bill, last year led a fight on behalf of increased funding for TB internationally; the result was an increase from $25 million to $30 million, the first increase in years.

"As a stand-alone bill, it’s not realistic to think this proposal will get much attention," says Diane Maple, press relations officer for the American Lung Association. "The language will probably reappear later wrapped into a larger bill." Even if the full amount isn’t granted, the effect will be to help keep funding for global TB control on the Congressional radar screen, and to sustain the push for much-needed increases in funding for TB in the international arena.

Brown is a ranking member of the Congress ional Subcommittee on Health and the Environ ment, and a senior member of the International Relations Committee.

The growing threat posed by TB, and especially drug-resistant TB, is on the upswing, notes Brown. "In this time of expanding global commerce and increasing overseas tourism, we’re at greater risk than ever for contracting and spreading tuberculosis," he says. "This is a killer that knows no national boundaries. It’s just common sense to invest in international TB prevention and treatment."

Last year, Brown and Rep. Connie Morella (R-MD) led a fight on the House floor to increase TB funding by $5 million in the fiscal year 2000 foreign operations spending bill. "I’m proud of that, but it barely scratches the surface of the need, if our goal is to eradicate TB worldwide," says Brown.

Investing in public health is one of the soundest decisions a country can make to improve quantity and quality of life, Brown notes. When Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle in 1906, Americans’ life expectancy was 46 years, he adds. Today, it’s 76 years — with public health improvements accounting for all but five years of the increase.

Talking about the links between immigration and TB invites the danger of raising anti-immigrant sentiment, Brown concedes. "Close the borders, they will say, and TB disappears." But that’s not realistic, he adds. "Unless you cut the U.S. off from international travel and build unscalable walls around the country, you’re not going to keep infectious diseases out. If we want to eradicate TB, we have to take responsibility for it."