For Immediate Release: May 21, 2009
Trust for America's Health Applauds Introduction of Health Workforce Development Bill
Trust for America's Health (TFAH) announced today that it supports the introduction of the Public Health Workforce Act of 2009; a bill that would help strengthen the nation's public health workforce at a time when health departments are facing critical shortages. The bill was introduced by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) in the U.S. Senate and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) in the U.S. House of Representatives.
"As the growing ranks of uninsured Americans look to the public health system as a safety net and as the nation continues to deal with the recent H1N1 Influenza outbreak, we urgently need a strong public health workforce to answer these national challenges," said Jeff Levi, Executive Director of TFAH. "Public health workers are vital to protecting our nation's health and economy, but funding cuts and layoffs have stretched them too thin. This legislation would help stabilize and grow America's public health labor force so that every American can count on the public health system when they need it. Trust for America's Health would like to thank Sen. Durbin and Rep. Matsui for their dedication to building a stronger public health system."
The Public Health Workforce Act of 2009 would incentivize the recruitment and retention of public health professionals at a time when the country faces critical public health workforce shortages. The United States has an estimated 50,000 fewer public health workers than it did 20 years ago. A 2007 survey by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) found that the state public health agency workforce is graying at a higher rate than the rest of the American workforce, and workforce shortages continue to persist in state health agencies. This workforce shortage could be exacerbated through retirements: 20 percent of the average state health agency's workforce will be eligible to retire within three years, and by 2012, over 50 percent of some state health agency workforces will be eligible to retire. According to a 2005 Profile of Local Health Departments conducted by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), approximately 20 percent of local health department employees will be eligible for retirement by 2010.
To address these shortages, this legislation would establish a Public Health Workforce Scholarship Program, as well as a Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Program. These financial incentives would be offered to individuals who pursue careers in public health. The legislation authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make grants to, or enter into contracts with, accredited educational institutions to award scholarships to mid-career public health professionals for additional training.