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McCullough publishes study the on ‘opportunity cost’ to public health systems due to COVID-19

Mac McCullough, School of Public and Population Health
Mac McCullough, School of Public and Population Health

School of Public and Population Health Associate Professor Mac McCullough recently co-published a report titled, “The Opportunity Cost of COVID for Public Health Practice: COVID-19 Pandemic Response Work and Lost Foundational Areas of Public Health Work” in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice.

McCullough’s research shines a light on the extent to which existing public health workers were pulled away from their usual work to contribute to the COVID-19 response, potentially leading to less work being done in other public health programs during the pandemic. All public health program areas contributed at least 20% of their workforce time to COVID-19 response, the report shows, meaning 20% less time devoted to their usual work, such as environmental health services, chronic disease prevention, and other essential public health services.

The report concludes that there was a considerable public health “opportunity cost” to the public health systems’ large and prolonged COVID-19 response. Persistent understaffing in the public health system remains an important issue, according to the study.

McCullough also co-wrote a blog post, which tackles important policy questions from the study, in JPHMP Direct.

McCullough’s research involves examining investments in public health and social services and assessing how these investments improve population health.