Chicago, Ill., June 24, 2011 —
A new report shows that while the new health reform law takes important steps to reorient the nation’s health care system toward disease prevention and health promotion, it has thus far failed to adequately invest in the public health workforce, jeopardizing the goals of the sweeping health measure.
Enacted 15 months ago, the Affordable Care Act reauthorized and created several programs that could increase the supply and expertise of the public health workforce — those professionals who oversee community health programs such as immunizations, tobacco cessation, restaurant inspections and other preventive health services. But to date, only 11 of 19 provisions assessed in the report have received funding. Those that have received monies have been funded at substantially lower levels than authorized.
“Under health reform, we have a real opportunity to transform our nation’s health system — by moving from a ‘sick’ care system to one that prioritizes prevention and wellness — and save lives and money,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E), executive director of the American Public Health Association. “But we’ll miss that opportunity if we fail to adequately invest in our nation’s public health workforce. These are the trained people who promote health and wellness in our communities every day.”
Further exacerbating the challenge, nearly 20 percent of the governmental public health workforce has been lost since 2008 as a result of the economic recession, resulting in cuts to public health services such as immunizations, prenatal care, and air and water quality monitoring, among others.
The Affordable Care Act includes many provisions to improve the size and capacity of the public health workforce. Most, however, have not yet been funded. Those that have been funded target the clinical health care workforce, such as primary care physicians and nurses, who make up only a fraction of the public health workforce. Only two of the five programs aimed at training public health workers have received funds, and one of them — the preventive medicine residency program — trains physicians.
The issue brief, Public Health Workforce Provisions in the Affordable Care Act, was released here today during the American Public Health Association’s Midyear Meeting, which convened more than 600 public health officials and administrators to focus on implementing health reform from a population-based health perspective.
For more about the report, visit www.apha.org/advocacy/reports/reports/. For more about the APHA Midyear Meeting, visit www.apha.org/midyear or visit the Midyear Meeting Blog at aphaannualmeeting.blogspot.com.