The Occ Epi training program was launched in fall 2014 as the newest of the CARERC training cores. A recent public health workforce report indicated that the U.S. faces a shortfall of 250,000 public health workers by 2020, and that over the next twelve years, schools of public health will need to train three times the number of current graduates to meet projected needs (Gebbie, Merrill et al. 2007; Gebbie, Raziano et al. 2009). The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) projected that 1,490 additional epidemiologists (a 68% increase to 1.21 epidemiologists per 100,000 population nationally) are needed to achieve ideal epidemiology and surveillance capacity in the program areas considered (Boulton, Lemmings et al. 2009; Boulton, Hadler et al. 2011).
Epidemiologic capacity has been low in occupational and environmental health at the state level, and an estimated 30% of states do not have a division of occupational / environmental health (Boulton, Hadler et al. 2011). Health departments have had limited focus on occupational and environmental health issues and chronic disease prevention (Phillips, Maetz et al. 2001; Toomey 2003).
The Appalachian region is home to a number of industries and occupations (coal mining; tobacco, poultry, and beef cattle farming; logging; construction; transportation; etc.) that have some of the highest rates of work-related injuries and health outcomes (black lung disease, silicosis, agriculture-related cancers). All these factors point to a great and long term need for occupational health surveillance as well as continued research focused on exposure assessment, methods development, and etiologic investigation in this region.
CARERC’s Occ Epi core was implemented to provide needed funding to recruit top students in public health to the field of occupational health and safety.