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Policymakers can use the state budget to create a healthier Washington
All Washingtonians should have opportunities to lead a healthy life, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they make. While access to health care plays an important role in influencing health outcomes, opportunities for better health begin where we live, work, and play – and these are factors that are largely shaped by state and federal tax and budget decisions.
Our new brief, “A Good State Budget is the Best Medicine,” describes how policymakers can help build healthy communities and advance equity in Washington by applying a health lens to all state budget and tax decisions. For example, education is one of the most important determinants of long-term health: People with more education live longer, are less likely to die from cancer or heart disease, and have better access to health care and insurance. So when lawmakers invest in high-quality early childhood education, kids are prepared to succeed in school, and experience immediate and long-term health benefits.
Policies that lift and keep people out of poverty are also health policies. In the upcoming session, state lawmakers have an opportunity to increase the income of low-paid workers by funding and modernizing the Working Families Tax Rebate (our state version of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC). Nationally, the EITC lifts more working families out of poverty than any other federal government program and has been shown to improve the health of infants and mothers. In 2017, nearly half a million working Washingtonians across the state could have benefited from the positive impacts of this tax rebate.
These and many other policies that may not seem to be health-related on the surface, including affordable housing, public transportation, and high-quality jobs, are all essential to the well-being of the state. By looking at budget choices through a health-promoting lens, lawmakers can take steps to create a budget that invests in the programs and policies that give everyone a chance to lead a healthy life.
Read the full brief, “A Good State Budget is the Best Medicine.”
Support for this brief was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.