Prevention Defense: Service Providers Must Pitch in to Help Cash-strapped Local Health Departments

Robert Pestronk | NACCHO | June 7, 2012

Basic health and safety protections that people take for granted are seriously threatened by the current adverse economic conditions. Budget cuts and job losses in industry have been big news for more than a year, but local health departments have been hard hit, too.

A survey of National Association of County and City Health Officials, or NACCHO, members reveals that, during 2008 and 2009, local health departments lost 15% of their employees— 23,000 people nationally—to layoffs or attrition. Mandatory furloughs and reduced hours in the second half of 2009 affected an additional 13,000 employees. These proportionately large workforce losses are escalating in 2010, as local and state governments continue to make budget cuts necessitated by losses in revenue.

The nation’s 2,800 local health departments serve people in ways both visible and invisible. Local health departments are the only organizations that focus solely on the health and wellbeing of every person in their communities. The leadership and staff of these agencies are prepared to address sudden threats to health, such as outbreaks of communicable diseases or foodborne illnesses...