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National Public Health Week Focuses On Equity
pub health

California’s local public health officials, county governments, frontline workers, and community advocates are marking National Public Health Week (April 4 to 10) with a call to action, urging Governor Newsom and the State Legislature to support their Public Health Equity Readiness and Opportunity (PublicHERO) Initiative. Sponsored by the California Can’t Wait Coalition (CACantWait), the PublicHERO Initiative builds on their budget proposal from last year that the Governor proposed for investments as part of this year’s budget: $300M in ongoing annual investment to rebuild a decimated public health workforce and infrastructure. The PublicHERO Initiative targets new, one-time investments to develop the future public health lab directors, epidemiologists, microbiologists, nurses, and public health professionals needed to address health inequities and protect Californians from rising rates of STDs, diabetes, tuberculosis, and chronic diseases.

“While public health has long operated out of sight, COVID-19 has demonstrated that functions like epidemiology, disease investigation, vaccinations and outreach to underserved communities are what keeps our communities safe and protects our communities in times of crisis,” said Michelle Gibbons, Executive Director of the County Health Executives Association of California. “We have all learned an unfortunate lesson: a decade and more of disinvestment in our core public health services left too many lives exposed to COVID-19. California must rebuild our pipeline of public health workers to be ready for the next crisis - whether from another COVID-19 variant or other serious threats like the rapid spread of STDs, rising rates of syphilis, or health risks from diabetes and other chronic diseases.”

National Public Health Week is an annual celebration of the life-saving role local public health plays in local communities. Last year, CACantWait and legislative leaders negotiated an agreement to fund public health $300M annually as part of this year’s budget. Governor Newsom maintained that funding as part of his proposed state budget, but CACantWait and legislative leaders continue to call for additional one-time investments to shore up their workforce to be prepared for the next public health crisis.

“We don’t know precisely when the next crisis will strike, which is why we continue to urge support for our PublicHERO Initiative so local public health departments have the highly educated, skilled and trained workers ready to respond, whether it comes in the form of flood, earthquake, bioterrorism or the extreme-weather driven by climate change,” said Gibbons.

The County Health Executives Association of California is a statewide organization of county and city Health Department and Agency Directors, who are responsible for the administration, oversight, and delivery of a broad range of local public health and indigent health care services. Members represent a variety of administrative and health professional disciplines.

CACantWait is a broad-based coalition of more than 80 organizations dedicated to protecting the health and safety of our communities and delivering health equity. Led by local public health departments, county governments, frontline workers and community advocates, the coalition is urging the Legislature to remain committed to investing $300M annually to rebuild the state’s public health workforce and infrastructure, with $200M dedicated to local public health departments. CACantWait also calls on Governor Newsom and the Legislature to support the PublicHERO Initiative to address public health workforce recruitment and retention challenges and provide the existing workforce with upward mobility opportunities to facilitate a pipeline of trained public health professionals.