Harassment of health officials prevalent in mid-COVID-19, study shows
Harassment of health officials prevalent in mid-COVID-19, study shows

Harassment of health officials prevalent in mid-COVID-19, study shows

Local and state public health officials faced widespread harassment in the first year of the pandemic, according to a examination published March 17 in American Journal of Public Health.

To identify and track harassment trends, researchers at the Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health analyzed results from a national survey of 583 local health departments conducted between March 2020 and January 2021. They also reviewed media reports on the resignation of officials, social media accounts, local boards for health meeting minutes and other resources for further coherence.

The study – conducted by the National Association of County and City Health Officials – identified 1,499 different reports of harassment during the first 11 months of the pandemic. These incidents involved personal threats against officials, vandalism and the disclosure of their private information, among other forms of harassment, according to Washington Post.

57 percent of the public health departments surveyed had experienced harassment, and 222 public health officials left their positions during the study period, researchers found. 36 percent of those departures involved officials who had been harassed.

“This is a wake-up call for the field on the need to prioritize long-term protection of our public health workforce,” study author Beth Resnick, DrPH, assistant dean of practice and education and senior researcher in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Bloomberg School, said in a Johns Hopkins Press Release. “Taking care of the workforce must be a fundamental component of the public health infrastructure that does not end when the pandemic does.”

Study authors offered several strategies to better support public health officials, including offering training in how to respond to political and societal conflicts, improving professional support systems, and setting up reporting systems for harassment incidents.

See the full survey here.

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