Head Count of Epidemiologists Has Dropped Since 2006

Study also finds bioterrorism/emergency response capacity has declined
By Jane Parry
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Since 2006 there has been a 10 percent decline in the number of epidemiologists working in state health departments, according to a study published in the Dec. 18 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Matthew L. Boulton, M.D., of the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, and colleagues report on an investigation by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists using a Web-based questionnaire sent to the state epidemiologist in the 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine work force capacity and advancements in surveillance support technology.

In 2009, compared with 2006, there were fewer state health departments that had substantial-to-full capacity to monitor, detect and investigate health problems and evaluate effectiveness of population-based services, the researchers found. Moreover, whereas 76 percent of departments had substantial capacity to deal with bioterrorism/emergency response demands in 2006, this declined slightly to 73 percent in 2009.

"More than 30 percent of states reported minimal-to-no (less than 25 percent) capacity to evaluate and conduct research and for five of nine epidemiology program areas, including environmental health, injury, occupational health, oral health, and substance abuse," the authors write. "Working together, federal, state, and local agencies should develop a strategy to address downward trends and major gaps in epidemiology capacity."

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