Local Health Departments in 2013: Budget and Job Cuts; Social Media and QI Increases

Feb 11, 2014, 2:47 PM


Job loss at local health departments continues unabated, according to the 2013 edition of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) Profile of Local health Departments. The total number of employees in local health departments has fallen to 162,000 last year from 190,000 in 2008.

However, the report also highlights program gains:

  • Nearly half of health departments not yet accredited plan to apply, have submitted a formal application or have submitted a statement of intent to apply for public health accreditation from the Public Health Accreditation Board.
  • The percentage of local health departments who have completed the three key accreditation prerequisites — community health assessment, community health improvement plans and an agency-wide strategic plan — has grown from 20 percent in 2010 to 30 percent in 2013.
  • Facebook use has grown from 20 percent in 2010 to 44 percent last year.
  • Twitter use has grown from 13 percent in 2010 to 18 percent last year.
  • YouTube use has grown from 6 percent in 2010 to 12 percent last year.
  • In 2013, 56 percent of local health departments were engaged in some type of quality improvement (QI) activity, up from 45 percent in 2010.

NACCHO releases its Profile report periodically and this year’s edition is based on data collected between January and March of last year, with 79 percent of health departments responding. The report takes a comprehensive look at local health department governance, funding, workforce, programs and services, including those related to emergency preparedness, quality improvement, and accreditation, access to healthcare services, policymaking, and information technology.

“Moving our nation toward a culture of health will require smart investments in public health and getting the highest value, most impactful outcomes from those investments,” says Risa Lavizzo-Mourrey, MD, MBA, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation which helped provide funding for the Profile report. “NACCHO’s Profile study provides fundamental data to support research on public health systems, and we are grateful for the many dedicated local health department staff who participated in this survey.”

>>Bonus Link: Read about more of NACCHO’s initiatives on NewPublicHealth.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.