CLEVELAND — If they do their work well — they’re the ones we don’t see. We’re talking about public health employees.
“Sanitarians, environmental health specialists out there enforcing restaurant safety, helping with any kind of health code violations, people who are in our factories making sure the air quality is safe,” said David Margolius, director of the Cleveland Department of Public Health.
Not to mention nurses who do vaccines, those who maintain safety in barbershops and tattoo parlors, help with addiction services and lead in housing.
Now a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is now giving those essential workers a leg up.
A partnership between the Cleveland Department of Public Health and Case Western Reserve University means the award will help pay tuition for free classes, all the way up to a free masters degree in public health for more than 50 practitioners.
“It’s huge deal. Already we’ve seen a ton of applicants,” Margolius said.
He said for any individual, their health is 90 percent where they live — access to transportation, parks, healthy food, air quality..
“Healthcare probably accounts for 10 percent of someone’s health. So in Cleveland, we’ve got all this great healthcare, but we need to make huge investments in the built environments - making our streets safer, traffic less reliant on cars, better bike lanes. This how we get to a healthier city,” Margolius said.
Daniel Tisch is the director of the Master of Public Health program at Case Western Reserve University.
He sees the grant as a much needed investment in our community.
“I think this is also a turning point in that the public is aware of just how important public health is to them, their families and communities,” Tisch said.
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the urgent need for public health workers, but Tisch said even before that, we didn’t have the workforce we needed.
“We know that based on reports, a third of the current public health workforce plans to leave this field very soon and we are already understaffed,” he added.
Those interested in entering the public health field or advancing their careers can apply now for the free tuition — and get started in classes as early as next Tuesday or next semester.