The coronavirus crisis is shining a light on the inadequacies of the American public health system, which most experts agree is significantly underfunded. A new report from Kaiser Health News and the Associated Press documents the decline of the system over the last decade and warns that the situation will likely get worse as recession-driven budget cuts take their toll at the state and local level.
Some key details from the report:
- Per capita spending for state public health departments has dropped by 16% since 2010.
- Spending for local health departments has fallen by 18% during the same time period.
- More than 38,000 state and local public health jobs have been eliminated since the recession in 2008 – “leaving a skeletal workforce for what was once viewed as one of the world’s top public health systems.”
- The majority of Americans live in states that spend less than $100 per person per year on public health.
- Less than a third of local health departments have an epidemiologist or statistician on staff.
- Most local governments spend more on policing than on health.
As the coronavirus raged in April, Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the reporters that his greatest regret was “that our nation failed over decades to effectively invest in public health.”