Oregon’s public health system is “minimal” in a third of communities, according to a new report commissioned by the Oregon Health Authority.
Public health deals with everything from immunizations to ending tobacco use. It also covers tests for lead and monitors factory emissions, which have been relevant issues in Portland and elsewhere statewide lately.
The state estimates it can conduct about five health assessments a year, but five times as many are needed to address environmental risks.
Lynne Saxton, director of the OHA, said the shortage of health workers is apparent across Oregon.
“In my travels across the state in the last year, many counties have said to me, 'We have one person trying to meet the entire needs of the public health system in our county and it’s simply not sustainable,'” she said
Oregon spends about $25 a person on public health each year. That compares to $40 in Washington and $95 in Idaho.
The state estimates it needs an extra $30 million out of the next legislature to modernize the system.