Survey: Nation lacking in epidemiologists

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Nearly 1,500 more epidemiologists are needed nationwide to sufficiently carry out public health duties, according to a survey of state epidemiologists earlier this year.

The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists has released its 2009 Epidemiology Capacity Assessment (PDF), intended to report on the “epidemiology capacity of state and territorial health departments in the United States, structured around the Ten Essential Services of Public Health” in eight areas: bioterrorism/emergency response, chronic diseases, environmental health, infectious diseases, injury, maternal and child health, occupational health, and oral health.

The analysis found that there are fewer epidemiologists resulting in a reduced capacity for surveillance and epidemiology – especially in the areas of bioterrorism and emergency response. It also reveals that a number of states lack the ability to perform several of the essential services of public health, that states are lacking in the technology to conduct surveillance and that many epidemiologists with high levels of training are leaving the public health sector.

The assessment is based on an online survey filled out by state epidemiologists or their delegates between April and July of 2009.

The 122-page report includes recommendations and an in-depth examination of the workforces, the functions that are in jeopardy, the funding sources for state health departments and more.

The CSTE Web site also has a handy directory of state epidemiologists that includes e-mail addresses.

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