University of Maryland School of Public Health associate professor, Dr. Jie Chen and lecturer Dr. Priscilla Novak, and doctoral students Ms. Ivy Benjenk and Ms. Deanna Barath in the Department of Health Policy and Management, discuss the vital role of local health departments in the response needed for disease threats such as COVID-19, and call for their increased funding and support in a new Medical Care Blog article.
They explain that while the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has taken the lead on responding to COVID-19 on the federal level and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases leads vaccine development, local health departments are responsible for providing on-the-ground communication, support and surveillance.
They refer to evidence that shows local health departments are trusted sources of information for the communities they serve, helping to improve population health, reduce emergency department visits, preventable hospital readmissions and deaths.
They highlight funding and care coordination as areas where local health departments struggle and argue against the President’s Budget Request to Congress, which calls for significant budget cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — a funding body for local health departments.
They also advocate for the implementation of technologies and programs that strengthen care coordination among local health departments, public health laboratories, hospitals and the CDC.
They maintain that since local health departments take a leading role in communicating with the public about the risk of COVID-19, and providing linkages in the medical care system, “Now is the time to act to ensure that that local health departments have adequate means and technologies to respond to emerging threats such as COVID-19 as well as novel issues that are sure to emerge.”Friday Letter Submission, Publish on April 03