The North Carolina Institute of Medicine this week released the report and recommendations of the Task Force on the Future of Local Public Health. The recommendations prioritize partnerships, data, communications, recruiting and retaining the current workforce, building the future workforce, innovations, and funding.
The vital role of local public health in supporting North Carolina communities has never been more evident. Yet huge challenges exist in this sector, including per capita funding for public health in North Carolina decreasing by 30% in the past decade (adjusted for inflation) and nearly half the US public health workforce planning to retire or quit within the next five years.
The task force’s nearly 60 experts and community members made recommendations to local and state policymakers and stakeholder groups, focused on transforming local public health’s capacity to:
“It is critical to plan for and give vision to the future of public health in North Carolina so we can continue to foster healthy communities, healthy economies, and healthy collaboration at the local level,” said Lisa Macon Harrison, MPH, Director of Granville Vance Public Health and Task Force Co-Chair. “The inclusive conversations of this task force in particular have been inspiring and give me such hope that we will navigate the challenges and elevate the practice of public health.”
The goal of the task force, supported by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, was to assess our state’s local public health needs, strengths, and challenges, and develop a vision for the future. It began in August 2021, led by co-chairs Leah McCall Devlin, DDS, MPH, professor at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health; Lisa Macon Harrison, MPH, Director of Granville Vance Public Health; John Lumpkin, MD, MPH, president of the BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina Foundation; and Vicki Lee Parker-High, MBA, executive director of the North Carolina Business Council.
“What the local health department means to me and my community, is an opportunity to get free or reduced-price health care treatment for those of us who can’t afford it,” said Task Force Member Sarita Hiers, a community advocate in Pitt County. “It is also an opportunity to be able to provide our families nutritious meals, and to give our babies a healthy start in life.”
The task force, made up of members representing local public health, health equity, data, communications, business, health care, philanthropy, and other related fields, met for 10 months before producing the final report and recommendations.
“As North Carolina continues to grow and change, a strong, highly functioning local public health infrastructure becomes even more critical for ongoing improvements in the health of our people and the health of our economy,” said Dr. John Lumpkin, Vice President, Drivers of Health for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and President of the Blue Cross NC Foundation. “I commend the North Carolina Institute of Medicine for responding to this imperative through its creation of our task force. I am encouraged by the recommendations we are putting forth, and I know that their adoption is critical to assure that the public health needs of our state and its people will be served well into the future. “
The North Carolina Institute of Medicine (NCIOM) is an independent, quasi-state agency that was chartered by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1983 to provide balanced, nonpartisan information on issues of relevance to the health of North Carolina’s population. For more information, visit www.nciom.org.