Local health departments slashing programs, workforce

More than half of all local health departments cut their public health programs between the summers of 2010 and 2011, says a new report from the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

More than half — 55 percent — reported reducing or eliminating at least one program, with maternal and child health services hit the hardest (21 percent saw cuts). Other personal health services and emergency preparedness also got the ax (20 percent), while only 9 percent of departments cut their epidemiology and surveillance programs.

As a result, the nationwide public health workforce is also shrinking.

During the first half of 2011, 44 percent of local health departments lost at least one employee, collectively shedding 5,400 jobs. Since 2008, the number of jobs lost to layoffs and attrition rises to 34,400.

The report concludes that that worst is yet to come, with 52 percent of local health departments expecting further cuts in the next fiscal year.