"If the U.S. wants to remain fully prepared to protect its residents from diseases such as COVID-19, it must invest in public health readiness. Doing so will help shore up an already-taxed public health system,” according to a new editorial in the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) American Journal of Public Health.

Editorial authors Nathaniel Smith, MD, MPH, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health; and Michael Fraser, PhD, MS, president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials say the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak is a reminder “how critical it is to continue to sustain and strengthen our nation’s public health infrastructure.”

The coronavirus outbreak — which numbers more than 45,000 cases worldwide, with 15 confirmed cases in the U.S. — is putting pressure on the U.S. public health workforce, which has experienced both funding and job cuts in recent years.

As U.S. health workers labor to prevent and contain COVID-19 cases, they are also dealing with critical everyday public health work, and “as a result, the entire public health system is strained during large-scale outbreaks and epidemics,” the authors noted.

“The unprecedented pace of the public health response to COVID-19 has only been possible because of prior investments in public health preparedness.” they wrote. “To maintain readiness, the nation needs continued strengthening of public health agencies’ core response capabilities.”

Read the editorial online.

The American Journal of Public Health is published by the American Public Health Association. APHA champions the health of all people and all communities and influences federal policy to improve the public’s health. Learn more at www.apha.org.