Already-strained US Public Health Workforce Battles with COVID-19

June 2, 2020 by Christen Aldrich

Filed under COVID-19 for Employers, COVID-19 for the Workforce

Last modified June 3, 2020

U.S. public health advocates have sounded the alarm on funding declines, workforce shortages, and health inequities long before the pandemic struck. The Nation’s Health published this article examining how the health workforce continues to grapple with the coronavirus, despite major resource gaps. Health agencies were also bracing for serious workforce ramifications, both from the economic downturn and overwhelming response needs.

Since the last great economic downturn in 2008, state and local public health has lost nearly a quarter of its workforce. COVID-19 threatens to do the same, and in some communities, it already has. “The key to stemming that crack before it widens is getting emergency federal funds down to the local level as soon as possible so that city and county governments can retain staff despite losses in local tax revenue,” said Lori Tremmel Freeman, MBA, CEO at the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

As the consequences of cutting budgets materialize, other looming concerns for U.S. public health include worker burnout, reduced capacity for other critical public health functions, worsened health inequities, and damaged community trust. “Public health isn’t a thing or a product — it’s a person,” Tremmel told The Nation’s Health. “The question that keeps me up is, ‘At what point in this pandemic will we have even more diminished capacity?’”

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