More specialists needed to tackle public health problems

The
number of specialist doctors in the public health workforce needed to tackle
major public health problems will have to rise by 40 per cent to provide an
effective service, according to a new report.

The
study by the Faculty of Public Health claims that levels of specialists in
areas such as public health services, health protection and academic public
health, are yet to meet levels set in 1988.

It
highlights a shortage of public health specialists at a time when their role is
expanding in importance and scope, making the effective delivery of the public
health agenda ‘impossible’.

Public
health services are coming under increased pressure due to soaring obesity
levels and sexually-transmitted disease rates, the global threat of SARS,
tobacco smoke pollution and threats of chemical attack, the report claims.

Professor
Sian Griffiths, president of the Faculty for Public Health, said: "If the
Government is serious about leading the attack on public health problems such
as obesity, then it urgently needs to invest in the public health
workforce."

There
are presently 827 public health consultants/specialists in the UK. The report,
Specialist Public Health Workforce in the UK, says there needs to be at least
1,472 specialists by 2006 to meet the national target set in 1998.

By Michael Millar

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