148: Public Health Under Attack

Dr. Brian Castrucci, CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation, says the results of a national survey of public health workers indicate a workforce under attack; Morning Edition shares plans to cover National Public Health Week starting next Monday; Dr....


Dr. Brian Castrucci, CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation, says the results of a national survey of public health workers indicate a workforce under attack; Morning Edition shares plans to cover National Public Health Week starting next Monday; Dr. Jewell Mullen, a former state health official in Connecticut and Massachusetts, is thinking about a pilot project that helped two Georgia agencies find new ways to work together; and registration is open for ASTHO’s second annual Public Health Tech Xpo.

ASTHO News Release: National Survey – Public Health Professionals Pushed to Limit

de Beaumont Foundation webpage: PH WINS 2021 Findings

APHA Webpage: National Public Health Week

ASTHO Podcast: Public Health Review

ASTHO Public Health Tech Xpo Webpage

 

ASTHO logo

Transcript

ROBERT JOHNSON:

This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Friday, April 1st, 2022. I'm Robert Johnson.

Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

 

The news from the nation's only survey of the public health workforce is not good. ASTHO and the de Beaumont Foundation say more than half of the nearly 45,000 workers surveyed between September and January report at least one symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder—or PTSD—likely because of the way they've been treated during the pandemic.

The results are part of the latest PH WINS survey released this week. Dr. Brian Castrucci is CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation. He talks about the findings in today's morning conversation.

Were you surprised that so many people in public health have reported having at least one symptom of PTSD?

DR. BRIAN CASTRUCCI:

I don't think I was surprised because we've been talking to public health officials throughout this whole pandemic and, while the nation has ignored this problem, we were very much aware of it.

The public health workforce has been on the front line of this pandemic, even before the nation knew it was happening; when we started to bring folks back from other countries, it was health departments who greeted those folks and had to house them and feed them. And this has been one of the worst public health crises in more than a hundred years, and we have an underfunded and understaffed workforce.

So, of course their mental health has taken a significant hit throughout the pandemic, and it has been exacerbated by bullying, harassment, terminations. And so, this is not to be unexpected and we need to do something about it.

JOHNSON:

Should we be alarmed by the results of the survey?

CASTRUCCI:

They are absolutely a cause for alarm. Public health sits as the foundation of our society. If we're not healthy, there's very little else that we can do. So, this attack on public health throughout the pandemic is like taking a jackhammer to the foundation of your own house. We are more vulnerable now than we were at the start of the pandemic. 31 states have limited public health authority while this pandemic continues to go on. And while there has been money from the federal government, we know about that investment—that investment is going through the same governors that were antagonistic to public health during the pandemic.

So, I am alarmed that we are ignoring public health to our detriment, and that we are putting the safety, security, and economic prosperity of this nation in jeopardy.

JOHNSON:

Now that you have the results and they are starting to get out, how do you hope they will impact the debate?

CASTRUCCI:

We must find a way to make public health not even bipartisan, but nonpartisan.

We have to understand that our nation hangs in the balance. That if a foreign nation was sending aircraft carriers towards our coast, we wouldn't cut our military forces; if we were in the middle of a war, we would look at things like the morale of our troops. I mean, in a lot ways, this is like public health-Vietnam. This is a group of people who were doing their job and their reward has been to be bullied and harassed, terminated, forced to resign—morale is low. You know, this is the stuff that we have to work on.

We have to really think about how public health is the undergirding of our society. If you want to do well in school, the kids have to be healthy. If you want people to fully worship, they have to be healthy to be able to go to their places of worship. If you want to have people come to work and be able to actually be present, they need to be healthy. So without health, we have no nation, and we are learning this in real time. And the crazy part is we're seeing it and we're still rolling back public health authority, and that has to stop.

JOHNSON:

Read more about the PH WINS survey using the link in the show notes.

 

National Public Health Week starts Monday. Each day of the event will focus on a different aspect of public health. Morning Edition has you covered.

We start the conversation Monday with Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. Join us all next week for coverage of this important event.

 

Also, Dr. Jewell Mullen is thinking about a pilot project that helped two Georgia agencies find new ways to work together. Mullen is a former state health official in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and a well-known advocate for aging Americans.

DR. JEWEL MULLEN:

The Georgia pilot moves beyond information sharing and a demonstration of what's there, to both highlighting all the work that's being done and serving as a guide for shared strategies. Because the crosswalk is very detailed—it shows projects, programs, initiatives, and needs—a shared strategic approach can actually lead to improve services and better collective impact for communities and the people in them.

JOHNSON:

ASTHO and the Trust for America's Health worked with Georgia's public health and aging teams on the project. Hear more about the pilot in a new episode of the Public Health Review podcast, coming soon everywhere you stream audio.

 

Finally, today, it's time to register for your seat at ASTHO's second annual Public Health TechXpo, planned for May 10th and 11th. It's a great opportunity to learn about the latest technology and professional services available to support your work.

The event is online. You can get more information using the link in the show notes.

 

Before we go, we want to remind you to leave us a rating and a review—they help raise our profile, and that makes it easier for new listeners to find us online. Also, if you follow the show, you'll never miss a single report. You can do all of this on the channel you're listening to right now.

 

That'll do it for today's newscast. We are back Monday morning with more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great weekend.

Brian Castrucci DrPh MA

President and CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation

Jewell Mullen MD MPH MPA

Associate Dean for Health Equity, Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin