Let’s face it: our healthcare system was not prepared for COVID-19. From skyrocketing numbers of admissions to emergency and intensive care units to plummeting critical supplies, constant misinformation, and inconsistent testing, we have been taken by surprise.
Before COVID-19, our healthcare system was already bending under the weight of the epidemic of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and other chronic conditions that were common indicators of higher deaths from COVID-19. These diseases affect over 129 million Americans and claim more than 1.7 million lives each year – more than double the number of deaths the pandemic claimed in the United States.
The Biden administration recently announced plans to invest more than $ 7 billion from the American Rescue Plan to improve public health infrastructure through training and recruitment. As preventive medicine physicians, we thank the administration for this proactive effort, but caution that unless these efforts are focused on educating public health and clinical staff responsible for tackling chronic disease epidemics, our systems and our communities will not be ready for the next disaster is when, not if, it will happen.
To effectively achieve the goal of improving public health infrastructure, this one-off cash flow must be coupled with long-term strategic investment in medical leaders trained in public health, including preventive medicine doctors. The American College of Preventive Medicine encourages hospital and health system administrators, public health officials, and clinical consultants to invest in the development of medical staff with unique training in both clinical and public health.
This strategic move to transform us from nursing to health care lays a solid foundation to start building a system that places prevention at the heart. By screening for disease and promoting health-based health initiatives, we can tackle common chronic diseases that currently affect half of all Americans and cost the country more than $ 3.8 trillion. If strategic investments are not made now, these numbers will only grow and further worsen the health of our nation.
Formal public health education and hands-on experience provide opportunities for developing specific skills. While meeting growing health care needs requires these future leaders to be competent in clinical preventive medicine, it is imperative that they also have a solid understanding of the senior leadership perspective, the health needs of their populations, and evidence-based approaches to problem solving. clinical and public health problems.
Competence-based training in all of these areas provides future leaders with the opportunity to become familiar with the business reality of managing a high-quality and sustainable healthcare system, gaining an administrative understanding of preventive medicine, public health, and clinical training. This extensive and formal instruction enables quick and effective integration and involvement in a wide range of healthcare settings, from hospital administration and public health to preventive medicine and clinical care.
Dedicating COVID-19 emergency funds to public health workforce development provides a unique opportunity for healthcare organizations and systems to improve their infrastructure to meet current and future health challenges. To ensure long-term public health preparedness and success, ACPM encourages hospital and health system leaders to create a future workforce who understands their workplace at the clinical, population and administrative levels. This investment will provide health systems with the infrastructure to respond quickly and skillfully to the challenges we face now and in the future.
Dr. M. “Thonette” Crowsel-Wood is president of the American College of Preventive Medicine.