As the battle against Covid-19 continues, doctors and nurses are at the forefront in hand-to-hand battles, grocery stores and delivery workers keep supplies flowing and scientists working on treatments and vaccines that will end treatment. fight for good.
But an important component of our response efforts was largely ignored: our existing contacts traced the workforce.
In every state throughout the country, there are special forces called Disease Intervention Specialists (DIS); These 1,600 individuals focus on stemming the spread of infectious diseases through contact tracing
– the act of identifying those who have come in contact with someone infected with the disease. Running out of state and local health departments and supported by the CDC PMS prevention program, these workers have more than half a century of expertise working with the communities most affected by Covid-19 – low-income communities and color communities. Since World War II, DIS has been rehired to help stop the spread of some of our biggest public health crises
, including HIV, Ebola, and Zika.
Over the past few weeks, Technology companies like Apple and Google have tried to offer alternative approaches to tracking contacts
. Although technology absolutely must play a role in the recovery of our nation from this pandemic, technology cannot replace human touch. As an opt-in application, this technology not only requires individuals to share highly personal health data with large technology companies, but also requires people to have smartphones, leaving around 20% of the population
– most of them are the most marginalized and the most vulnerable.
While direct contact tracing may seem like an analogous approach, the situation is like New York
and California recently announced strong plans to build a contact tracking unit throughout the state. In California
, these contact tracers will be monitored by workers in the state health department who have the expertise needed to help bend the infection curve significantly downward. But until now, there has not been an integrated national strategy utilizing this existing workforce.
Many state governors seem unaware of the expertise they already have. And while Massachusetts and Illinois
has announced plans for how they will handle contact tracking, they outsource work
rather than relying on existing and more advanced contact trackers in their health department.
As this war rages on, continuing to have a disproportionate impact on the black and Latin communities, it is clear what needs to happen: countries must prioritize the DIS workforce in their country’s health department to help contact contacts and the CDC must make a substantial investment in DIS’s long-term sustainability is not only to fight Covid-19, but to prepare for the impending health crisis. For nearly 20 years, congressional funds have remained the same for DIS without adjustments for living expenses or to combat radically rising STI levels; only last year there was a marginal increase
. The funds were allocated by the CDC to support employing these people, and only a small portion of what was needed to sustain these troops.
When we are preparing to fight this infection, we cannot do it with anemia rating. By investing in DIS now, Congress and the CDC will provide the state with the opportunity to employ, train and use contact tracers, and that can also provide safe employment for those who are unemployed, amid one of the biggest unemployment crises ever experienced. our nation.
When we see the highest STD level in the history of our country
and pandemics such as Covid-19 are likely to continue, building this public health force to get America back to work is a legacy that must be left by our leaders in the White House and CDC. Because our country is slowly considering reopening economic sectors, one thing is certain – we cannot do it safely without increasing investment to increase our DIS workforce, and an integrated strategy for using these skilled contact trackers.
This is a war we can win. However, without adequate support for this existing workforce from the leaders of the country, the CDC, the Congress and the President of the United States, more lives will be lost and we will continue to lose strength.