A Labor Day Tribute to Those Who Work in Public Health. (Ok, Where’s the Funding?)

Day after day, the country’s public health workers – whether working a microscope in a lab or running a health clinic –  focus on encouraging healthy behaviors and wellness. The pandemic has put a greater burden on many of them who really have been engulfed in crisis mode since last winter, working long hours and often with few resources.

They are the local health department leaders, fielding calls, coordinating responses and administering tests for COVID-19,   They are the epidemiologists who map out the virus path and work diligently to put a lid on its spread in a community. They are contact workers who are checking out people worried if they have COVID-19 or other diseases, and get them help if they do. They are restaurant inspectors who make sure eateries open when they should, or shouldn’t. They are the nutritionists, educators and social workers trying to help school districts put together plans for the fall. They are the policy makers and scientific researchers planning for what’s ahead, and occupational  health and safety experts keeping watch on today’s workplace, as physicians and nurses checking our day-to-day pulse.

Public health workers’ efforts, always crucial, are now being magnified with COVID-19, and they are laboring tirelessly and often at high personal risk. As they have been on the front lines of this pandemic from day one, they continue to work in the face of shortages of lifesaving protective gear, gowns or gloves.

Indeed, hundreds of doctors and nurses, hospital administrators, paramedics and custodians  and other public health workers have died as a result of COVID-19, often because they were simply doing their jobs. Many who perished who were people of color or immigrants.

The public health workforce, beset by continual shortages. There may be a shortfall of 250,000 workers by 2020, academic papers show. Congress should pour much more federal funding, especially for state and local health departments, who are working feverishly not only to fight COVID-19 but every emergency we face.

In the U.S. per capita spending on public health is less than 3 percent of all health care expenditures, and that percentage is probably going to drop.

Everyone always calls Labor Day the unofficial end of summer. The pandemic continues, and proper precautions must be taken to prevent the spread and thwart the coronavirus by wearing a mask, be physically distant, continually wash our hands, and be careful about large gatherings.

These are the simple tools that everyone can take to thwart the pandemic.

In the meantime, public health workers are the front-and-center heroes, helping us overcome this crisis a day at a time. – Joe Cantlupe, Health Data Buzz

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

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