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Epidemiology Surveillance and Capacity Improvement: A Characterization of Texas, 2017

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 March 2021

Kahler W. Stone*
Affiliation:
Department of Health and Human Performance, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN, USA
Marilyn Felkner
Affiliation:
Department of Public Health, University of Texas, School of Human Ecology, Austin, TX, USA
Eric Garza
Affiliation:
Emerging and Acute Infectious Disease Branch, Texas Department of State Health Services, Austin, TX, USA
Maria Perez-Patron
Affiliation:
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Texas A&M School of Public Health, College Station, TX, USA
Cason Schmit
Affiliation:
Department of Health Policy and Management, Texas A&M School of Public Health, College Station, TX, USA
Thomas J. McDonald
Affiliation:
Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Health, Texas A&M School of Public Health, College Station, TX, USA
Jennifer A. Horney
Affiliation:
Department of Epidemiology, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, USA
*
Corresponding author: Kahler W. Stone, Email: Kahler.Stone@mtsu.edu.

Abstract

Objectives:

In response to increasing caseloads of foodborne illnesses and high consequence infectious disease investigations, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) requested funding from the Texas Legislature in 2013 and 2015 for a new state-funded epidemiologist (SFE) program.

Methods:

Primary cross-sectional survey data were collected from 32 of 40 local health departments (LHDs) via an online instrument and analyzed to quantify roles, responsibilities, and training of epidemiologists in Texas in 2017 and compared to similar state health department assessments.

Results:

Sixty-six percent of SFEs had epidemiology-specific training (eg, master’s in public health) compared to 45% in state health department estimates. For LHDs included in this study, the mean number of epidemiologists per 100 000 was 0.73 in medium LHDs and 0.46 in large LHDs. SFE positions make up approximately 40% of the LHD epidemiology workforce of all sizes and 56% of medium-sized LHD epidemiology staff in Texas specifically.

Conclusions:

Through this program, DSHS increased epidemiology capacity almost twofold from 0.28 to 0.47 epidemiologists per 100 000 people. These findings suggest that capacity funding programs like this improve epidemiology capacity in local jurisdictions and should be considered in other regions to improve general public health preparedness and epidemiology capacity.

Type
Original Research
Copyright
© Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, Inc. 2021

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