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NWCPHP Researchers: ‘Public Health Food Safety Services Protect Health’

NWCPHP faculty recently published an article in the American Journal of Public Health that correlates increased public health food safety spending with fewer cases of foodborne illness.

NWCPHP faculty recently published an article in the American Journal of Public Health that correlates increased public health food safety spending with fewer cases of foodborne illness.  

February 24, 2015

A recent article authored by NWCPHP faculty member Betty Bekemeier, PhD, MPH and published in the American Journal of Public Health contributes to the evidence base that public health spending on food safety and sanitation is associated with better health outcomes. The evidence can help local public health leaders “make the case” for keeping resources directed at these issues.

The article describes research completed by Bekemeier's team, which includes NWCPHP director Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, MD, MPH, and other University of Washington School of Public Health faculty. Their study measured and analyzed incidence rates of intestinal disease in all 35 local health districts in Washington State and 36 local health districts in New York State. By comparing the health districts’ spending on food safety and sanitation, researchers found those with higher spending had fewer cases of certain food-related illnesses in their populations.

The study highlights the need for directors and managers of local governments and health districts to have robust information about how to allocate resources. “This study shows how important it is to collect good data that link public health expenditures and outcomes,” said NWCPHP Director Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett. “One of our main goals is to show policymakers that investing in public health yields a good ROI (return on investment).”

This research builds on Bekemeier’s previous body of work which focuses on the role of targeted spending on health outcomes. In 2013, Bekemeier developed the Public Health Activities and Services Tracking (PHAST) Study, which looked at the relationship between local health department workforce cuts and service and system performance, especially with regard to vulnerable populations. Findings were presented during NWCPHP’s July 2013 Hot Topics in Practice webinar and later published in a peer-reviewed report in 2014 that described how maternal child health investments at the local level were associated with improved birth outcomes.

For the future, Bekemeier will conduct analyses of other public health services and hopes to recruit additional states to participate in the PHAST work.

Read the entire article online.

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