Local Health Depts. Hard Hit by Recession

WASHINGTON, May 28 (UPI) — From January 2008 to December 2009, local health departments lost 23,000 jobs, or 15 percent of the local health department workforce, U.S. researchers said.

The full report, using survey results by the National Association of County and City Health Officials, said 46 percent of the local health departments nationwide lost skilled people who protect the health of people in their communities.

“Continued cuts to local health department budgets threaten Americans’ safety and health,” Robert M. Pestronk, executive director of the National Association of County and City Health Officials said in a statement.

“The cumulative effects of these budget cuts and job losses have taken a major toll on the ability of health officials to respond not only to large-scale emergencies and disease outbreaks like H1N1 influenza, but to the everyday situations for which the health department is the first line of defense.”

Nationwide, the median number of employees who work at the local health department is 18, so even one job lost can have a large impact on improving childhood nutrition, preventing tobacco use or providing childhood immunizations, as well as dealing with public health emergencies, Pestronk said.

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