Public health departments have garnered a lot of attention from Congress throughout the pandemic. Tens of billions of dollars have gone into coronavirus response operations.
Public health officials who have dealt with small budgets for years are happy to have the extra funding, but what happens when the pandemic lets up?
“What we tease is boom and bust funding. We can't just fund the system when an emergency happens. We need to have sustained funding, so that we can build a system that works cohesively,” said Chrissie Juliano, Executive Director of the Big Cities Health Coalition.
The Big Cities Health Coalition says it’s tough for departments to have upgraded public health systems when money comes and goes.
This also impacts staffing. BCHC says the public health workforce has lost 20% of workers since 2008, yet the population keeps growing.
Although departments have been able to bring on many new hires because of the pandemic, those jobs may not last.
“What we need to do is give health departments the resources to be able to hire or retain rather the people we hired and think about how best to use those dollars and how the people currently in the system can be repurposed,” said Juliano.
Last month, a group of senators reintroduced a measure that would establish more steady funding for public health departments. It calls for $4.5 billion in funding annually. It would focus on things like equity, preparedness and response, public health assessment, and more.