Health

COVID’s crushing impact on public health

A new study by the University of Delaware found that many public health workers were reassigned to COVID-related duties during a pandemic response, exposing other serious public health issues to service degradation or interruptions.Credits: University of Delaware / Jeffrey C. Chase

The cruel effects of COVID-19, a virus that emerged in late 2019 and has killed 5 million people so far, are recorded in daily headlines. It robbed us of loved ones, jobs, plans, etc.

The impact on people who treat sick and dying people is the focus of many studies, and the fatigue of health care workers who pull extra shifts to cover inadequate personnel is well documented.

However, the true scale of this tragedy is still unknown.

New study published on Thursday, October 14th PLOS ONEShows another layer of influence. How the response to the virus attacked the United States. Public health systemIn particular, the important services they provide to their workers and millions.

The study, led by Jennifer Horny, a professor and founding director of the University of Delaware’s Epidemiology Program, sheds a cool light on the state of the public health workforce and raises important questions. Public health services And the program can be maintained in the future.

Of particular concern are many Public health workers Reassigned to COVID-related duties during a pandemic response, leaving other serious public health issues with reduced or interrupted service.

That is, other infectious diseases, food-related illnesses, public health surveillance, Chronic disease And other important services are suffering.

“It affects the overall health of the population,” Horny said. “They didn’t just disappear. People still had High blood pressure, They were dying from more and more substance abuse, but their programs were put on hold. “

She and her collaborators wanted to capture some of that data and look to the future.

“What will the workforce look like in the future?” She said.

This is a nasty snapshot based on survey responses from 298 people working in public health roles, including government agencies and faculties. The study measures professional experience, mental and physical health, and career plans, and reflects how their views and experiences changed from the pre-pandemic to mid-pandemic days. increase.

But how do you define the population of public health workers? It’s not easy, Horny said. This includes everyone from epidemiologists, laboratory workers and environmental health professionals to those who work in preventive programs and those who work to educate the general public on a variety of health issues. .. State systems are so diverse that it is difficult to get a clear picture of the number of public health workers in the United States.

What is known is that the system was severely understaffed and underfunded before the pandemic occurred, Horny said. Many of the most experienced leaders and workers now have enough.

“Experienced people, those who worked through H1N1, Jika, and Ebola, have left or retired from public health,” she said. “Unfortunately, the most experienced public health workers are also the most burnout workers.”

In August, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the results of a large-scale study reporting the impact of pandemics on the mental health of public health workers.

Researchers say the situation is even worse, as external pressures have affected public confidence, sometimes leading to accelerated dismissals, resignations, and retirements.

“I definitely had my moment during this,” Horny said. “But I love this job, and so do most people who choose a public health career. It’s real. I hope people understand everything that goes into public health. “

Such studies can help explain a wide range of issues that public health professionals address, especially when they do not need to be diverted to a pandemic response.

Due to COVID-related relocations, some include chronic illness (39% reduction), maternal and child health (42% reduction), substance abuse (28% reduction), environmental hygiene (26% reduction), injury (37%), etc. There was a significant decrease in the field. Reduction), and a 47% reduction in programs focused on HIV / sexually transmitted diseases, health inequalities, etc.

Program evaluation and health education have also declined significantly. In contrast, the number of infectious disease and preparatory workers remained constant from pre-pandemic to mid-pandemic, the study showed.

Most workers also worked for hours more. Before the pandemic, about 21% of the 282 respondents who worked in public health in January 2020 said they worked more than 40 hours a week. It increased to more than two-thirds by the mid-pandemic (August-October 2020). About 7% say they worked more than five days a week before the pandemic. By the middle of the pandemic, two-thirds of them worked more than five days a week.

The study points to the need for increased funding and increased educational opportunities that are important in addressing these issues and preparing for the future.

“It remains unclear, but very important to quantify is the impact on public health resulting from these interruptions during COVID-19 compliance,” the study said.

Horny collaborators on this study include Christina W. Kinziger at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Koehler W. Stone at the University of Tennessee, and Meredith Jaguar in Austin, Tennessee. Stone is a PhD student at Horny’s and Kintziger was a former National Science Foundation grant mentee.

Future research is already underway to explore some issues more deeply and explore how views and experiences have changed through the 2021 challenge.

Researchers have found that women under the age of 40, overexpression of white respondents, and health National sector.


The bridge between public health education and the government workforce needs to be fixed


For more information:
Kristina W. Kintziger et al, Impact of COVID-19 response on the provision of other public health services in the United States: Cross-sectional study, PLOS ONE (2021). DOI: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0255844

Quote: The catastrophic impact of COVID on public health (14 October 2021) from https: //medicalxpress.com/news/2021-10-covid-impact-health.html on 14 October 2021 Obtained.

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