Coalition supports legislation to bolster workforce for future public health emergencies

The ADA and a coalition of more than 30 health care stakeholders - led by the HIV Medicine Association - are supporting HR 5602, the Bolstering Infectious Outbreaks Preparedness Workforce Act of 2021.

If enacted, the bill would help alleviate shortages to strengthen the country's workforce for future public health emergencies by addressing financial barriers that prevent health care professionals from pursuing careers in bio-preparedness and infectious diseases. It would provide loan repayment providers who spend at least 50% of their time engaged in bio-preparedness and response activities anywhere in the U.S. or 50% providing infectious disease care in medically underserved communities and federally funded facilities. Dentists would be eligible under the infectious disease care section of the bill.

"A strong and diverse [infectious disease] and bio-preparedness workforce (including physicians, pharmacists, physician assistants, advanced practice registered nurses, clinical laboratory professionals and dentists) is vital to a rapid, effective response to infectious disease outbreaks and to provide [infectious disease] care," the groups wrote in an Oct. 22 letter to lawmakers.

The groups noted that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed "gaps and weaknesses" in the nation's readiness for public health emergencies related to infectious disease outbreaks, including insufficient workforce capacity. These weaknesses have subsequently hampered efforts to address ongoing public health threats such as seasonal influenza, antimicrobial resistance, HIV, tuberculosis, viral hepatitis and infections associated with the opioid epidemic.

"Thank you for your leadership in sponsoring this legislation to address gaps in the workforce and better prepare the United States for the next pandemic, while improving the health and public health of our nation now," they wrote. "We look forward to working with you toward its passage."

The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held a hearing on HR 5602 on Oct. 26.

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