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Government Shutdowns Are Unhealthy

Approximately 800,000 federal workers have not been paid during the long partial government shutdown. Presumably, they will receive back pay once the government is fully operating. Contract workers will not receive back pay. I assume this is affecting the health of these employees and their loved ones.

All of this is distressing, but most of us aren’t feeling the direct consequences. Or are we? For instance, the shutdown caused a reduction in the number of routine safety inspections performed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA is responsible for most of the nation’s food supply.  Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar recently announced that inspectors have been called back to work, but only recently and not with a full team.

Then there is the matter of drug safety. The FDA is working with a smaller team, and delays are expected.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also furloughed some staff. Flu season is the CDC’s busiest time of year.

Then there are the National Institutes of Health. Scientific research stops. Researchers won’t be attending scientific meetings that are so valuable to the advancement of medicine. Patients who were going to begin in clinical trials, will not be able to. Some of them are barely alive, pursuing clinical trials as their last hope.

Information is also affected by the shutdown. Have you visited the FDA’s website lately? It’s like looking at a rinky-dink site, rather than one belonging to a country with the wealth of the United States. (www.fda.gov)

Federally-funded clinics are affected. They appear to be open, although their staff are working without pay. I wonder what toll the lack of paycheck has on their health.

Politics has no place in the world of disease and health, life and death. But sadly it has inserted itself right in the middle of it.

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