Joanne Pearsol, ASTHO’s Director of Leadership and Workforce, discusses the impact the COVID-19 pandemic might have on the results of the latest PHWins survey now in the field; Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota’s former state health commissioner,...
Joanne Pearsol, ASTHO’s Director of Leadership and Workforce, discusses the impact the COVID-19 pandemic might have on the results of the latest PHWins survey now in the field; Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota’s former state health commissioner, explores the health of babies in the U.S. and steps states and territories can take to ensure infants are doing well, even during the pandemic; a new ASTHO blog article surveys legislative measures to ensure crisis readiness; and the CDC prepares to allocate nearly a billion dollars in grant money next month to help fight infections in hospitals and other health care facilities.
This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Monday, September 27th, 2021. I'm Robert Johnson.
Here's today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
The public health workforce has been through a lot the last two years. Now, ASTHO and the de Beaumont Foundation want to know what employees are thinking about their jobs and their futures.
The PHWins survey will gather responses from thousands of workers before the results are available next summer. It's the first PHWins Survey since 2017.
Joanne Pearsol is ASTHO's director of leadership and workforce.
I think we'll see, unfortunately, an increase in, perhaps, number of people that are considering leaving their position in five years.
We know we've seen more turnover in 2020 and 2021 because of pandemic. So, I think we'll see a change in the number of individuals that are thinking about making a career change. And I think that's probably true across the board, but maybe particularly true with public health individuals.
I think that because of the added stressors of the pandemic, we are likely to see perhaps a decrease in satisfaction overall with their positions.
Public health is traditionally a very mission driven profession. People are in it because they love the work and they really believe in protecting and keeping people healthy.
But the stressors because of COVID, I think, has made people question not the mission, but what their role is in achieving optimal health.
The pandemic has affected everyone, young and old, but how has it impacted babies?
Dr. Ed Ehlinger is a pediatrician and Minnesota's former state health commissioner. He considers the question and shares how states and territories can address infant health in today's morning conversation.
How are babies doing during the pandemic?
Well, September is Infant Mortality Month, as you know, and the reason we have Infant Mortality Month in the first place is that babies are not doing well in our country—you know, we have some of the highest infant mortality rates among high-income countries and the racial disparities in infant mortality rates in our country persist at a shameful level; so, in general, babies are not doing well.
But as for the pandemic, there are some concerns about the health of pregnant women; but the babies themselves so far are handling the SARS-COVID-2—the virus that, you know, is at the basis of this pandemic—they're handling that fairly well.
However, the impact of the pandemic on their families and their caregivers is a major concern; so, economic stress, housing and food insecurity, domestic violence, and mental health concerns that had been precipitated by the pandemic are major concerns and are directly impacting the babies.
You know, these are what we call the adverse childhood experiences, and they're increasing during the pandemic, which should be a concern for both the short-term and long-term health of these babies,
Given that, what are some of the tools that states and territories—your former colleagues—can use to help ensure the health and welfare of infants despite COVID-19 and all of the challenges?
So, all of these childhood illnesses and diseases haven't gone away during the pandemic, so we need to continue to work to prevent those or identify and treat them early.
Now, home visiting has also been an important service, but it's become more difficult during the pandemic. So, we need to increase our investment in home visiting and take advantage of telehealth for home visiting until we can get back to full in-person visits. And that's why I've been advocating for better broadband access, and that's becoming a major public health issue.
Similarly, the pandemic is also showing us the importance of paid family leave and sick leave and having a living wage for the health of babies, you know, so these are infant health-friendly public policies, and now is the time for public health agencies to make that case.
Also, expanding Medicaid coverage for women for the first year postpartum would also be a tremendous benefit to babies.
How important is it, in your view, that jurisdictions and their partners keep these programs running even during the pandemic?
So, infants are particularly affected by the social and environmental conditions in which they live—housing and food insecurity, as I mentioned earlier, are major issues that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. So, anything that public health agencies can do in partnership with housing and social service agencies in their community to address these issues is really important.
Also, collaborating with childcare agencies to assure that there are safe places for infants and children to be while their parents work is also a great importance.
So, I believe that caring for infants is a community responsibility and should be a community priority. So, we need to center the efforts of all agencies and organizations—not just public health and medical care—around the needs of families and babies.
And as my former senator, Paul Wellstone, said, "We all do better when we all do better." Well, if babies do better, we will all do better.
Also today, many states and territories are using legislation to make sure they're ready for the next crisis.
A new ASTHO blog article reports on steps many have taken to improve their preparedness programs: some have created study commissions; Texas approved a new epidemic public health institute; Massachusetts wants students and teachers to learn more about weather, natural disasters, viruses, and human-made disasters.
These and other legislative approaches to crisis readiness are included in the article. Look for a link in the show notes.
Finally this morning, more than $2 billion is headed to state, local, and territorial health to help prevent infections in healthcare facilities. The CDC will distribute the money over the next three years. Nearly a billion dollars will be allocated next month.
Find a link with more details about the grants and a searchable funding table in the show notes.
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Join us tomorrow morning for more ASTHO news and information.
I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition.