Survey Gives Close Look at Local Public Health Departments

Article excerpt

The latest national snapshot of local public health departments offers a comprehensive look at everything from financing to services provided to the demographic characteristics of health department staff.

The "2010 National Profile of Local Health Departments," released in September by the National Association of County and City Health Officials, is the culmination of surveys sent to every one of the 2,500 local health departments in the nation. The latest report is the sixth in a series first conducted in 1989-1990 to bring together information useful in public health education, advocacy and research.

"It's kind of a surveillance system for local health departments," Carolyn Leep, MPH, MS, NACCHO senior director of research and evaluation, told The Nation's Health. "This is a big study."

The report, funded in part by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gives a detailed account of the health department workforce, including the average number of full-time employees. Key workforce facts show that 31 percent of health department staff are a race other than white and 12 percent are Hispanic; more than 95 percent of local health departments employ clerical personnel and public health nurses; and less than one-third of all health departments have used the Core Competencies for Public Health Workers. Other issues in the report include emergency preparedness, policy and advocacy and public health leadership.

"The work of local health departments is critical to protecting the health of the community," CDC Director Thomas R. …