Thursday, September 6, 2012

Georges Benjamin, American Public Health Association Q&A: Sustaining Public Health

 Sept. 6, 2012
An upcoming Institute of Medicinesymposium on September 10 and 11, 2012—Sustaining Public Health Capacity in an Age of Austerity—will look at the impact of recent budget cuts on the ability of public health systems to be the front line in the prevention, identification, and control of infectious diseases, and public health generally.
The discussion is critical. Public health experts say the public health infrastructure in the United States and other counties has suffered decades of neglect and insufficient investment compounded by the global financial crisis and has resulted in substantial decreases in funding, resources and staff and inadequate training.
Discussion topics during the symposium include the changing nature of communicable and non-communicable diseases and their impact on global health and economic well-being; the current level and opportunities to improve preparedness of public health systems for anticipating, preventing, detecting, and responding to communicable disease outbreaks; and the impact of current and anticipated budget cutbacks on the health of the public.
Georges S. Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association, will be a participant in a key symposium panel: “New Thinking and Action in Public Health Practice, Workforce Development, and Retention.”NewPublicHealth spoke with Dr. Benjamin recently about the symposium and the impact of public health budget cuts.
NewPublicHealth: Tell us about the discussion you anticipate.
Dr. Benjamin: This is a forum on microbial threats and one of the areas being looked at is what so many of us in public health are facing—significant resource restraints as we go through the next several years. You have this collision of these two great forces: reduced resources and the need to be innovative as the system changes. We’re always trying to improve the system, but how we do that in the concept of the collision.
In addition to the panel, the full meeting has a lot of discussion about the impact of reduced public health capacity and in particular I’ll be speaking about workforce training and retention in the context of thinking about a path forward.
NPH: Why is a forum on microbial threats is taking such a broad view on public health capacity?

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