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NACCHO President Jennifer Kertanis Testified Before Congress on Public Health Infrastructure and Workforce Issues

Feb 24, 2021 | Theresa Spinner

“We are planning and ramping up as a key player in the largest mass vaccination campaign our nation has ever embarked on and working with community partners to disseminate credible information, calm fears, dispel myths, and develop and implement plans to protect the highest at-risk groups including Black Americans, Latinx people and the elderly of all races.”

Washington, DC, February 24, 2021 — Today Jennifer Kertanis, MPH, Director of Health at the Farmington Valley Health District, and President of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) testified before the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations Subcommittee in a hearing titled “Ready or Not: U.S. Public Health Infrastructure.” Ms. Kertanis leads a health department serving a population of approximately 110,000 in ten towns west of Hartford, CT.

In her prepared remarks Ms. Kertanis discussed the role of local health departments in responding to the pandemic. “Local health departments provide testing and contact tracing services, monitor the health of those who may have been exposed to COVID-19, and support them to self-isolate. We are planning and ramping up as a key player in the largest mass vaccination campaign our nation has ever embarked on and working with community partners to disseminate credible information, calm fears, dispel myths, and develop and implement plans to protect the highest at-risk groups including Black Americans, Latinx people and the elderly of all races.”

Regarding workforce deficits Ms. Kertanis noted local public health has long been under resourced. “The Great Recession of 2008 hit all sectors of local government hard, but whereas other sectors were able to bounce back, funding for public health did not recover. NACCHO’s research shows that over time, average local health department expenditures per capita decreased 30%, from $80 in 2008, to $56 in 2019.”

“Local public health budget cuts show themselves most clearly in workforce reductions that have made the current pandemic response even more challenging…local health departments have actually lost 21% of their workforce capacity since 2008, with the number of full-time equivalent employees dropping from 5.2 per 10,000 people in 2008 to 4.1 per 10,000 people in 2019.”

“That is why over the past year, NACCHO has organized and led over 100 stakeholder organizations in a call to create a federal loan repayment program for public health professionals who complete a term of service in a local, state, or tribal health department that would help to fill these workforce gaps. “

“A baseline of public health investment and services is essential so that all Americans can be confident that the public health system is strong no matter where they live. Investing in our governmental public health infrastructure now is also important to our overall future preparedness to effectively and efficiently address pandemic response and other threats to our nation’s health,” Ms. Kertanis concluded.

You can watch the full video of the hearing here.

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About NACCHO
The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) represents the nation’s nearly 3,000 local 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.


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About Theresa Spinner

Theresa Spinner is the Director, Media and Public Relations at NACCHO.

More posts by Theresa Spinner

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