Public Health Departments Shrinking, Survey Finds
March 1, 2010
by Katharine Seelye
The New York Times
Public health workers are another casualty of recent budget cuts in cities and counties across the country.
New studies indicate that about 15 percent of the local public health work force has disappeared over the last two years, just as experts are calling for an increase in the preventive and monitoring services that these workers provide.
In 2008, local health departments lost 7,000 jobs through budget-related cuts, according to the National Association of County and City Health Officials. In 2009, the number of lost jobs more than doubled, to 16,000 workers.
At the same time, according to a new report from Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the states have cut nearly $392 million for public health programs [pdf]. And federal spending for public health has been flat for nearly five years.
"The cumulative effects of budget cuts and job losses have taken a major toll on the ability of health officials to respond not only to large-scale emergencies and disease outbreaks like H1N1 influenza," said Robert M. Pestronk, executive director of the association, "but to the everyday situations for which the health department is the first line of defense."
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