COPH, Hillsborough County to receive $15 million+ from CDC grant to shore up the public health workforce

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The USF College of Public Health (COPH) is partnering with the Florida Department of Health, Hillsborough County, on programs designed to help build, reinforce and retain the public health workforce in the county.

Funding for the county’s programs, totaling more than $15 million over five years, is coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Public Health Infrastructure Grant Program. The COPH itself will receive more than $5 million of that amount.

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The goal of the grant program, which overall will award more than $4 billion over five years to public health departments around the country, is to “help ensure that every U.S. community has the people, services and systems needed to promote and protect health,” according to the program’s website.

The college got involved when the county health department reached out to COPH Dean Donna Petersen, saying that they had met a population eligibility requirement set forth by the grant.

“They said, ‘We meet the eligibility requirement of having a population of 1 million or more, but we need the college’s help writing the proposal and developing programs,’ ” said Petersen, who is the principal investigator on the grant. “So we worked together with the county to develop public health workforce skills development, leadership training and programs intended to refresh, revive and retain public health professionals. We’ll also be adding wellness programs that address burnout and stress. And all these things will be available not only to the county’s health department staff but also to its partners, including the school district, Healthy Start and others.”

In addition to specially developed programs, the grant will also focus on creating a more streamlined process whereby public health personnel and partners can gain early access to both undergraduate and graduate COPH courses and certificates (with grant money covering tuition). Eligible employees can also complete a CPH exam prep course and sit for the exam.

“The COPH is excited to have the opportunity to work closely with the Hillsborough County Health Department and its partners to build a stronger, more effective public health workforce and system in this community,” said Petersen. “These programs will have a robust audience.”

Programs are expected to start in the next fiscal year.

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health