Story at a glance
- Underfunded and outdated public health infrastructure hampered a swift and efficient response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.
- The country is also facing a critical shortage of health care workers.
- A new grant from the CDC will provide more than $3 billion in aid to local jurisdictions across the country.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced it will award more than $3 billion to strengthen the public health workforce and infrastructure of state, local and territorial health departments.
The funding is the first-of-its kind, while all U.S. citizens live in a jurisdiction that will receive funds under the new grant.
The announcement comes as the United States faces a growing shortage of healthcare workers. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that by 2033, the country will have a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians, including both primary care physicians and specialists.
Recent research also detailed an association between a lack of mental health care providers and increased youth suicide rates.
“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,” said CDC director Rochelle Walensky in a release.
“This grant gives these agencies critical funding and flexibility to build and reinforce the nation’s public health workforce and infrastructure, and protect the populations they serve. We are meeting them where they are and trusting them to know what works best for their communities.”
Of the $3.2 billion awarded, $3 billion comes from the American Rescue Plan Act and will allow jurisdictions to recruit, retain and train their workforce. Jurisdictions will receive an additional $140 million to revitalize their public health infrastructure, while national partners will receive $65 million to help train, evaluate and provide additional technical support to jurisdictions.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, some public health systems relied on outdated technology, like the fax machine, which ended up slowing their response to the crisis. Disjointed public health systems at the state and local levels contributed to inconsistent data reporting, exacerbated by a lack of data standards.
According to the CDC, the funding allotments were tailored to meet jurisdictions’ unique needs and will assist communities that are economically or socially marginalized, rural communities and those with people from racial and ethnic minority groups.