Ohio has cut back on birth defect surveillance. Maryland has closed a care facility serving people with intellectual disabilities. Alabama has limited eligibility for state-supplied vaccines.

These are just a few of the many cuts implemented recently by state health departments in the face of ongoing budget challenges, as cited in a new analysis by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. And it’s not just the reduction in services and programs that continue to hamper public health efforts. Loss of jobs compounds the problem.

“Federal, state and local government budget cuts are jeopardizing a decade of significant gains made by state and territorial health agencies,” reported the ASTHO research brief.

Chart showing percentage of state health agencies experiencing reduced workforce capacity and programs

Chart courtesy ASTHO

The same trends continue at the local level, too.

A National Association of County and City Health Officials survey noted that 57 percent of all local health departments cut programs in 2011, more than in any previous 12-month period since the start of the recession in 2008. During the second half of 2011, those agencies eliminated 5,200 positions, more than three times as many jobs as they gained.

“Although the country as a whole shows signs of economic recovery, the same is not true for many local health departments,” lamented the NACCHO report.

In total, more than 52,000 state and local public health jobs have been lost since 2008 due to the elimination of positions, hiring freezes, layoffs and furloughs. This represents a loss of 17 percent of the state and territorial public health workforce and a 22 percent loss of the local public health workforce.

ASTHO’s research brief, “Budget Cuts Continue to Affect the Health of Americans: Update March 2012,” compiled responses from the health agencies of 44 states, one territory and the District of Columbia. NACCHO’s “Local Health Department Job Losses and Program Cuts: Findings from January 2012 Survey” analyzed responses from 663 local health departments in 47 states.

Tell us how budget cuts have affected your health department and programs in the comments area below.