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Lack of public health workers is a problem in Indiana



Indianapolis, Indiana – There is a severe shortage of qualified public health care professionals. According to a survey, between 2017 and 2021, over half of state and local healthcare employees departed their jobs. During the same time period, 74% of employees under the age of 35 departed the public health sector.

“Unfortunately, the jobs are not high paying. Sometimes they require a public health degree, sometimes they don’t, and we are just running into an issue of trying to recruit people into those jobs,” said Shandy Dearth, Director of the Center for Public Health Practice.

She continues by saying that public health professionals are able to obtain better-paying positions in the private sector.

After a public health emergency like COVID-19, health departments frequently receive an influx of federal funding; however, this funding eventually runs out. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides grants to support the infrastructure-building efforts of local health departments, although these awards only benefit larger agencies.

“Our other health departments are missing out on that funding. The state does have a plan to try and help some of the local health departments,” said Dearth.

In terms of how much is allocated to public health per person, Indiana has consistently fallen considerably behind other states. Restaurants and grocery stores are inspected by public health professionals. After an environmental catastrophe, they also check the quality of the air and water.

“Summer is coming up soon. We have those back-to-school clinics happening with local health departments to make sure the kids are fully vaccinated, measles mumps, and rubella. Not just COVID. Health departments do lots of things outside COVID,” said Dearth.

Dearth is hoping that Senate Bill 4, which among other things permits municipal health departments to enter into contracts or authorize funds for essential medical services, would be approved by the legislature.

In addition, she claims that forgiving school loans for newly hired health professionals may encourage them to remain in their line of employment longer.

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