Sep 20, 2021

The Most Important Thing No One Understands

Brian Castrucci, DrPH, MA

de Beaumont Foundation

Brian Castrucci is the President of the de Beaumont Foundation, which has provided the inaugural funding and coordination for the National Consortium.

For something so critical to the safety, security, and continued prosperity of our nation, not nearly enough people understand public health.   And if no one understands public health, no one is going to make a meaningful investment in the public health workforce. 

Through their funding decisions, elected leaders at the federal, state, and local levels have eroded public health for decades, making the nation increasingly vulnerable to threats from infectious disease and manmade and natural disasters. You don’t send soldiers into a battle without the tools they need to do the job, but this is just what we did to our nation’s public health departments. They threw everything they had at COVID-19. The problem is that they weren’t given enough to throw.

Unless we act now, the vulnerabilities that existed at the start of the COIVD-19 pandemic will remain, possibly increase, and the potential outcomes of future pandemic could be far worse. Public health practitioners need to be clear about what is needed going forward to protect the safety, security, and economic prosperity of our nation.

As Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Well, it can’t manage a pandemic very well either. Unlike our national defense, public health is under the control of the states. We don’t have one national public health system; we have 50 of them. The Founding Fathers did not anticipate that one of the greatest threats to our nation would be driven by public health. Infectious disease and human and natural disasters don’t respect political boundaries. Throughout the pandemic, states have been at odds over their pandemic protocols – mask wearing, business closings, limitations on indoor events, school opening policies – making it increasingly challenging to move our nation through the pandemic. Our nation needs cooperation and collaboration between states if we are to effectively manage future pandemics and disasters. The National Consortium for Public Health Workforce Development is an attempt to bring needed alignment across states for a more aligned public health workforce.. 

The National Consortium is a collective effort to ensure the public health workforce has the skills, resources, and support it needs to partner with communities to address the social determinants of health and achieve health equity. The Consortium will build upon data gathered about the governmental public health workforce through PH WINS, put into practice the updated 10 Essential Public Health Services that center health equity, and ensure that public health practitioners have  the strategic skills they need to work across sectors effectively. 

As a member of the National Consortium of Public Health Workforce Development continues, the de Beaumont Foundation is committed to sharing what we learn with the other members and undertaking efforts that reflect what we have learned from them.

Federalism is equal parts wonderful and dangerous. And we’re seeing the dangers. This isn’t about what color your license plate is, or what state slogan you have, or what your state bird is. This is about how states come together to effectively fight a national enemy. That’s why we are coming together to assure we have an adequate workforce in size and training.

I hope you will join us.

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