My Turn: What will our children and grandchildren have to say?

Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Health and Social Services Commissioner Jay Livey has said for every $1 cut from current public health and social services state funds, Alaska will lose $3 of matching federal funds. Professionals in prevention have calculated the ratio of dollars saved for dollars spent for human services, both in public and private sectors. For mother and child health care: $1 for W.I.C. saves $3 in short-term medical costs; $1 for prenatal care saves $3.38 in low-birthweight infant care; $1 for Medicaid prenatal care saves $2 in first-year care; $1 for family planning saves $2 in health-care costs; and $1 for the American Academy of Pediatrics Injury Prevention Program saves $6.

For early child education: $1 for one year of preschool saves $6; $1 for a two-year preschool program saves $3.56. For school climate improvements (training teachers and gifts to student activities funds): $1 saves $1.76 in school vandalism costs. For family early intervention and preservation (home visiting, parenting classes): $1 saves $5 to $6 in child protection and custody costs; and for general public prevention measures for all ages the use of seat belts for $1 saves over $1,000 and for pollution abatement and prevention $1 saves $5.

I wonder how the American Revolution would have come out if a majority of eastern seaboard colonists' families and leaders had decided they could not afford it? George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and many other leaders of those times lived in great debt. Not a small number died in monetary debt. I wonder if the naysayers in Congress had prevailed against Secretary of State Seward, how Russian ownership would have continued. If those Alaska frontier families and early territorial leaders had decided they could not afford to have statehood, how would Alaska be today? The science and practice of prevention made some significant strides in the 1990s, as our national economy reaped the peace dividend of Soviet Union breakup. Life expectancy rose, death rates from nearly all causes, including AIDS, in the United States declined, levels of living standards for millions rose to unprecedented highs, and all the world learned we can grow enough food and conserve enough water for humankind as birth rates drop and humans became closely interconnected by electronic and jet travel technology. Alaska's economy has steadily grown and we have more human talent and energy at our disposal than ever before.

I believe we not only can afford fair taxes to invest in Alaska's continued growth, we really cannot afford to let fear control our future. I urge all Alaskans to call, fax, e-mail, and write their senators and representatives to balance fiscal accountability with public tax resources. This is a way we can all give to Alaska. Our children and their children will look back and say, "Our Alaska forebears had a vision and the courage to share in giving resources for us, and we thank them forever."

George W. Brown is a pediatrician working in private practice in Juneau.

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