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Newly Formed Coalition Looks Ahead In Pandemic Response
Coalition health

A coalition of public health officials, local governments, frontline workers and community advocates known as the #CACantWait Coalition on Feb. 17 recognized Governor Newsom’s and the California Legislature’s leadership in proposing significant new investments for state and local public health. Coalition members also urged them to complement these robust investments with dedicated one-time funding to develop the future public health workforce pipeline.

“Local public health officials are heartened that Governor Newsom has recognized the critical need to rebuild local public health departments that were decimated in the decade before COVID-19. It’s clear California must be ready to not only fight the virus’ ongoing threat, but to address health concerns too long ignored and disproportionately affecting communities of color, from sexually transmitted diseases to diabetes and obesity,” said Michelle Gibbons, Executive Director of the County Health Executives Association of California. “Californians have come to know that having fully functional local public health departments is crucial to protecting lives not just during a time of crisis. The $300M proposed by Governor Newsom is a great first start to rebuild our decimated workforce and infrastructure, and we know there’s a need to have focused investments in our public health workforce pipeline and training to make real and lasting change in social determinants of health.”

“Now is the time to restore our vital public health infrastructure, which faced years of neglect before the pandemic,” said Kat DeBurgh, Executive Director of the Health Officers Association of California. “Local health departments, public health labs, and most of all our public health workforce need to be rebuilt and enhanced to face the public health threats of the 21st century.”

In addition to the ongoing threat of COVID-19 variants, local public health departments are working to avert other potential crises. Rising rates of STDs/STIs, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic diseases were exacerbated by COVID-19, straining a burned out local public health workforce and infrastructure weakened by a past decade of disinvestment.

“As we look ahead to the next phase in California’s  approach to COVID-19, it is clear that our frontline workers are in this fight to save lives for the long haul and must be supported in this life-saving, equity mission,” said Bob Schoonover, President of SEIU State Council and Executive Director of SEIU Local 721. “As we look ahead we must also pledge to strengthen our public health defenses so we never again see such catastrophic and unequal consequences. This year’s state budget must build upon the investment committed to public health last year. Strengthening the reach of our diverse, public health workforce is a top priority for California to reach our goals of preventing disease so every Californian has a fighting chance when we face the next threat.”

In January, Governor Newsom unveiled his proposed budget that contained $300M ongoing for state and local public health departments, with $200M dedicated to local health jurisdictions. This year, the California Can’t Wait Coalition will push for a bold workforce investment centered on equity and readiness.

The California Can’t Wait Coalition is a broad-based group of 84 organizations dedicated to protecting the health and safety of our communities and delivering health equity. Led by local public health departments, county governments, frontline workers, and community advocates, they have urged Governor Newsom and the California Legislature to remain committed to investing $300M annually to rebuild public health workforce and infrastructure, with $200M dedicated to local public health departments.