December 09, 2022
2 min read
The CDC has awarded $3.2 billion to state, local and territorial jurisdictions across the country to improve and grow the public health workforce.
The money is also being used to address gaps in health systems that were revealed by the pandemic.
The agency’s goal, in addition to increasing the number of people involved in the delivery of public health, is to improve infrastructure and modernize data systems to better allow for the detection and tracking of diseases and to stop outbreaks, it said in a press release.
“The COVID-19 pandemic severely stressed a public health system that was already weakened by neglect and underinvestment,” Melissa Brower, public affairs specialist in CDC’s Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology and Laboratory Services, told Healio. “The pandemic emphasized that to avoid the substantial human and expected economic costs associated with both large-scale emergencies and ongoing public health concerns, we must be willing to make long-term investments in our public health system.”
The largest portion of the funds — $3 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 — is aimed at expanding, training and modernizing the public health workforce. Institutions receiving the awards will be expected to recruit people from the communities they serve.
The agency is requiring all its jurisdictions to hire workforce development directors and evaluation staff who will determine what each community needs, from community health workers and lab workers to IT and organizational staff.
The idea, Brower said, is to help jurisdictions “address long-standing vulnerabilities.”
The CDC is also looking to bolster its data modernization initiative, which was launched in 2020, to simplify data systems and make them more interoperable so that decision-makers have access to better and more data, she said.
“Our ultimate goal is to move from siloed and brittle public health data systems to connected, resilient, adaptable, and sustainable ‘response-ready’ systems that can help us solve problems before they happen and reduce the harm caused by the problems that do happen,” Brower said.
The CDC said it determined where the funding should go based on conversations with stakeholders and partners — including the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the National Network of Public Health Institutes and the Public Health Accreditation Board.
The grant funds are also expected to address ongoing needs in economically and socially marginalized communities, rural communities and underrepresented groups, CDC said.
“State, local and territorial health departments are the heart of the U.S. public health system, and the COVID-19 pandemic severely stressed these agencies, which were already weakened by neglect and underinvestment,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, said in the press release. “We are meeting them where they are and trusting them to know what works best for their communities.”