When a pandemic is looming, “it’s not the time to have the conversation” about funding health departments, said Brian Castrucci, DrPH, president and CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation. In a March 2 article in USA TODAY. An epidemiologist who spent much of his career in health departments in Texas, Georgia and Philadelphia, Dr. Castrucci said the lack of ongoing, sustained funding for state and local public health means that the response to COVID-19 will not be as strong as it should be. At the same time, however, he applauded the hard work that public health officials are doing every day — and have been doing for months — to prepare and respond to the threat of coronavirus.

He expressed concern that Congress the White House and Congress aren’t acting quickly enough  to get health departments the critical funding they need. “While we are waiting, people are getting sick and the response doesn’t wait. We don’t have the luxury, working in public health, to wait for money to come.”

While we are waiting, people are getting sick, and the response doesn’t wait.

The budgets of state and local health departments have been cut over the past years — since Great Recession, they’ve lost 50,000 jobs (or 20 percent), leaving 200,000 positions.

In the article, Dr. Boris Lushniak, a former deputy and acting U.S. Surgeon General who worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is now dean of University of Maryland’s School of Public Health, shared Dr. Castrucci’s concerns. “Once again, we’re not that prepared. When those [basic public health efforts] aren’t supported well, in the time of emergency you don’t have the infrastructure to shift gears and go into emergency mode.”

Dr. Nirav Shah, former commissioner of the New York State Department of Health and a senior scholar at Stanford University’s Clinical Excellence Research Center, said the only solution is to focus on preparedness and prevention — and not just respond to crises when they occur. “The issue is we are becoming more reactive and less proactive. We are waiting for people to cross the border, rather than going to the source.”

Read the full article: “‘This is not sustainable’: Public health departments, decimated by funding cuts, scramble against coronavirus.”


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