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News From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
June 22/29, 2005

Assessment of Epidemiologic Capacity in State and Territorial Health Departments—United States, 2004

JAMA. 2005;293(24):2993-2994. doi:10.1001/jama.293.24.2993

MMWR. 2005;54:457-459

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In November 2001, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) conducted a survey of state and territorial health departments to assess their core epidemiologic capacity.1,2 The survey was completed just before distribution of approximately $1 billion in terrorism preparedness and emergency response funds in fiscal year 2002, intended to improve the U.S. public health infrastructure.3 Results of the 2001 survey, published in 2003, indicated inadequate capacity in six of eight key epidemiology program areas (all except infectious disease and chronic disease) to fully perform the essential public health services most dependent on epidemiology.1,4 In 2004, CSTE conducted a follow-up survey that assessed epidemiologic capacity in the United States and its territories in the same eight program areas, estimated the number of additional epidemiologists needed for full performance, and identified education and training needs.5 This report summarizes the results of that 2004 follow-up survey, which indicated a 26.9% increase* from 2001 in the overall number of epidemiologists working in state and territorial health departments, increased capacity in two program areas (i.e., terrorism preparedness and emergency response; maternal and child health) and decreased capacity in six other program areas (i.e., infectious disease, chronic disease, environmental health, injury, occupational health, and oral health).2 Results also revealed that 28.5% of epidemiologists lacked any formal training or academic coursework in epidemiology. Creation of a strong public health infrastructure fully capable of performing essential services will require additional trained epidemiologists in state and territorial health departments.