Nation’s Public Health System At Risk

July 2, 2020

The U.S. public health system has been under funded and under staffed for decades and lacks the resources to confront the worst health crisis in a century, according to a new investigation by the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Kaiser Health News (KHN) and The Associated Press (AP).

Among the key findings in the investigative series’ first story, “Hollowed-Out Public Health System Faces More Cuts Amid Virus”:

  • Since 2010, spending on state health departments has dropped by 16% per capita, and in local health departments by 18%, in 2019 dollars after adjusting for inflation.
  • At least 38,000 state and local public health jobs have been eliminated since the Great Recession in 2008, leaving an inadequate workforce in what was viewed in the mid-20th century as one of the world’s best public health systems.   
  • At least 14 states have already cut or are actively considering cuts to health department budgets or positions. States, cities and counties, facing declining revenues amid the economic downturn, are laying off and furloughing the already limited staff.

For this investigation, KHN and AP journalists interviewed more than 150 public health workers, policymakers and experts, analyzed state and federal financial records, and surveyed statehouses around the country. KHN and AP conclude that governments at every level have failed to provide the public health system with the resources — both human and financial — that are required to protect the nation from pandemics.