The Biden Administration is announcing a plan to spend more than seven-billion dollars to hire new public health workers as part of its COVID-19 program.
Since most public health agencies have seen considerable disinvestment in recent years, Keith Mueller says this new commitment would help greatly.
“It will make a major difference,” Mueller says. “We’ve needed and will continue to need this kind of investment in public health nationally and, of course, in Iowa.”
The president says he’ll use funds from the American Rescue Plan to recruit and hire public health workers to respond to the current pandemic and to prepare for future public health challenges. While it’s impossible to say how many new jobs in the public health sector it may mean for Iowa, Mueller says it will be a tremendous boost as we continue to fight COVID and get ready for whatever may be looming next.
Mueller says, “I’m most interested, given the amount of work I do in rural health, at how the underrepresentation or the funding to departments that have historically been underfunded because they are in areas like rural America that have not gotten a lot of support.”
While COVID-19 has cemented the importance and essential nature of public health workers in the nation’s collective mind, Mueller says the memories of those who control the money tend to be short.
“We see it when we’re in the middle of a public health emergency like this, and historically we’ve had other such times,” Mueller says, “but then as things quiet down and public health continues to do its work, we don’t see it and we don’t see what happens if we don’t invest in it, so investment tends to drop off again.”
While COVID has brought attention to how vital it is to maintain a strong public health workforce, Mueller says he’s not sure we’ve yet achieved recognition of the importance of -continuous- investment in the field.