A survey of nearly 700 local health departments shows that more than half have cut services in the first six months of 2011, continuing a troubling trend that has seen local health departments shed 34,400 jobs — roughly one-fifth of their workforce — since 2008.
The survey, released Tuesday by the National Association of County and City Health Officials, indicates that 44 percent of local health departments lost at least one employee from January through June 2011. When considering mandatory furloughs and reduced work hours, the number of agencies reporting some type of negative job impact increases to 53 percent.
“Local health departments have been operating on leaner budgets and fewer staff since 2008,” said Robert M. Pestronk, NACCHO’s executive director. “Fewer staff means a loss of key protections for you and me.”
Between July 2010 and June 2011, more than half of all local health departments reduced or eliminated at least one program. Of those, 21 percent reduced or eliminated maternal and child health services while only 9 percent made cuts to epidemiology and surveillance programs. Other personal health services and emergency preparedness programs were also among those often cut.
While the cuts have been devastating, Pestronk noted that there are some bright spots. “With the loss also comes resourcefulness and innovating ways to make the most of the staff and funding that remain,” he said in a statement.
The survey also indicates that 52 percent of local health departments expect cuts in the next fiscal year.
How have budget and job cuts affected the delivery of public health services in your community?