The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported yesterday that the number of state-level epidemiologists–who often serve as the frontline in detecting and tracking foodborne illness outbreaks–has decreased steadily since 2004 and has dropped 10 percent since 2006.

scientist.jpg“The current condition of national epidemiology is a preparedness and public health vulnerability,” said Mr. James Hadler, lead author of the report, released by CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

“[Say] bye bye to first line of defense versus pandemic, bio-terror, food poisoning,” tweeted ABC producer, Brian Hartman, in response to the MMWR’s finding yesterday.

“Epidemiological capacity is essential for detection, control, and prevention of major public health problems,” noted the report, which blamed fluctuating state and local budgets for the diminished epidemiology capacity.

The report also noted that nearly 20 percent of current public health epidemiologists anticipate retiring or changing careers in the next five years.

According to the report, patching together the epidemiological safety net is going to require some teamwork, “Working together, federal, state, and local agencies should develop a strategy to address downward trends and major gaps in epidemiology capacity.”

  • John

    This support the data from ASTHO see below about the impact of declining economy on public health
    The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) surveyed 57 state and territorial health agencies about how the current economic environment is affecting their budgets and ability to protect the public’s health. The survey was fielded once in Nov/Dec 2008, again in Jan/Feb 2009, and a final time in Jul/Aug 2009. This is a summary of the 45 responses (42 states, two territories and DC) received Nov 25 – Dec 16, 2008, the 22 responses (22 states) received Jan 27 – Feb 5, 2009, and the 46 responses (43 states, two territories and DC) received Jul 23 – Aug 21, 2009. Extent of Respondents’ Budget Reductions
     76% of state health departments made cuts to the FY09 budget during FY09.
     61% reported a FY10 budget that is smaller than FY09.1
     At least 38% expect further cuts in FY10.
     28% reported a FY09 budget that was smaller than FY08.
     22% reported a smaller budget than the previous year for FY09 and FY10.