IDSA, HIVMA Applaud the Senate Introduction of the BIO Preparedness Workforce Act
Bipartisan Bill Helps Build Infectious Diseases Workforce Needed to Combat Public Health Threats & Expand Care Access
The Infectious Diseases Society of America and HIV Medicine Association applaud the bipartisan introduction of the Bolstering Infectious Outbreaks (BIO) Preparedness Workforce Act by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). The bill would support recruitment and retention of a sufficient, diverse bio-preparedness and infectious diseases workforce to respond to current and future public health threats and epidemics. The bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Lori Trahan (D-MA) and David McKinley (R-WV) on October 15.
The BIO Preparedness Workforce Act would establish a new loan repayment program for health care professionals who spend at least 50% of their time working in bio-preparedness, including infection prevention and control and antimicrobial stewardship, in a health care facility anywhere in the U.S. or who spend at least 50% of their time providing infectious diseases care in underserved areas or federally funded facilities. The bill authorizes HHS to award these loan repayment contracts in a manner that increases the number of ID and bio-preparedness health care professionals from populations underrepresented in medicine.
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the infectious diseases workforce was under serious strain. A June 2020 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that 208 million Americans live in areas with little or no access to an infectious diseases physician. Despite strong interest in the field among medical students, year after year infectious diseases fellowship training programs are unable to fill all their slots, as high student debt drives many physicians toward more lucrative specialties. The opportunity for loan repayment will help make ID a financially feasible career choice and help ensure infectious diseases expertise is available where it is most needed,” explained Dan McQuillen, MD, FIDSA, president of IDSA.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, shortages of infectious diseases clinicians, laboratory professionals, infection preventionists and other experts have hampered the nation’s ability to respond. Limited access to experienced infectious diseases and HIV health care professionals in many communities also has challenged the health care system’s ability to respond to other serious public health issues and epidemics including antimicrobial resistance, HIV, viral hepatitis and infections associated with drug use.
“A strong, diverse infectious diseases workforce in communities across the United States is critical to advance health equity, promote our resilience for future pandemics and end persistent epidemics like HIV,” stated Marwan Haddad, MD, MPH, HIVMA chair. “Building a sufficient and expert infectious diseases workforce must go hand in hand with developing effective tools for preventing and treating COVID-19, HIV and other infectious diseases to ensure they can be successfully deployed and reach vulnerable and underserved communities and populations.”
The U.S. must strengthen and diversify the infectious diseases workforce to ensure we have the experts needed in communities across the country to successfully confront the array of infectious diseases facing patients today and to secure our preparedness for future health threats.
IDSA and HIVMA urge Congress to act swiftly to advance the bipartisan BIO Preparedness Workforce Act.