Report calls for doubling nation's public health spending

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"The country's failure to maximize the conditions in which people can be healthy continues to take a growing toll on the economy and on society," committee chairwoman Marthe Gold said in a statement. "As the backbone of the health system, public health departments could help communities and other partners engage in efforts and policies that lead to better population health."

Congress has struggled to invest in public health in part because budget scorekeepers have balked at forecasting hypothetical long-term savings from upfront investments in prevention. President Obama's healthcare reform law created a $15 billion Prevention and Public Health Fund, but the fund has already been cut by $5 billion because it's proven to be one of the easiest provisions of the law to raid when lawmakers need offsets to pay for other programs.