Washington, DC, December 23, 2022 – The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), which represents the nation’s nearly 3,000 local governmental health departments, lauds the passage of the Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Program as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023. This bipartisan provision, a top NACCHO priority, will provide for a federal loan repayment program to support recruitment and retention of top public health talent in local, state, and tribal health departments.
NACCHO Chief Executive Officer Lori Tremmel Freeman issued the following statement:
“Local health departments and their staffs play a crucial role in keeping their communities safe and healthy, as highlighted over the last several years. Local health officials have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 and mpox responses, while also working to address pre-existing public health challenges, many of which have been exacerbated during the pandemic response.
“A decade of disinvestment and the multi-year COVID-19 response together have stretched health departments and their employees thin, which is why we are so grateful to Congress for including the Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Program in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023. This program will be a vital incentive to help recruit and retain talented professionals to work in local, state, and tribal health departments, and this program represents an important investment in strengthening health department capacity in the years to come.
“We particularly thank the bipartisan sponsors of this legislation – Representatives Crow, Burgess, Eshoo, and Guthrie and Senators Smith, Booker, Collins, and Murkowski – as well as Senators Murray and Burr for recognizing the program’s importance and including it in the PREVENT Pandemics Act.
“The public health workforce – the backbone of our nation’s governmental public health system – is facing a crisis that predates COVID-19 but has worsened during this unprecedented health emergency. In the decade preceding the pandemic, local health departments lost 21% of their workforce capacity, and a 2022 analysis found that nearly one-third of the public health workforce is considering leaving their organization in the next year.
“Combined, these forces create an urgency to address our public health workforce crisis. Since 2020, NACCHO has led a coalition of more than 100 organizations to enact legislation to establish a Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Program. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 will offer up to $150,000 in loan repayment to public health professionals who agree to serve three years in a local, state, or tribal health department. The program will provide health departments with a new tool to recruit and retain professionals in the field who have graduated within the past 10 years with a range of degrees related to the needs of a 21st century public health workforce like public health, epidemiology, data systems, informatics, or statistics.
“The timing of this legislation is critical; new staff have joined health departments to help protect the public during this pandemic, and the public health system needs to retain these staff long term and help ensure that their experience is harnessed and is available to address current and future public health challenges. NACCHO looks forward to working with the Health Resources and Services Administration to implement the program and with Congress to ensure sufficient funding is appropriated.”
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The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) represents the nation’s nearly 3,000 local governmental health departments. These city, county, metropolitan, district, and tribal departments work every day to protect and promote health and well-being for all people in their communities. For more information about NACCHO, please visit www.naccho.org.