Epidemiologic Support to State and Local Sexually Transmitted Disease Control Programs: Perceived Need and Availability

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Background and Objectives:

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) comprise the majority of national infectious disease morbidity reported, yet the number of epidemiologists working in state and local STD programs is estimated to be small. Even less is known about the training and activities of those epidemiologists.


To determine the number, training, and affiliation of epidemiologists working with STD programs and the level of satisfaction with epidemiologic support available.

Study Design:

Survey of 65 program managers in state and local health departments.


Program managers named 146 people working on epidemiologic activities, and 84 of those people were classified as "epidemiologist" by the criteria we applied. The median number of full-time equivalent (FTE) epidemiologists working in or with STD programs was 0.5; one quarter of all STD program had no epidemiologists. There was a significant association between number of FTE epidemiologist and population, with most programs with more than 0.5 epidemiologists located in areas with at least 1,000,000 population. State Epidemiologists do not provide technical support to most state STD programs. Almost half (45%) of all program managers indicated that they have inadequate epidemiologic support for routine program activities.


The current level of epidemiologic support available to most STD programs is inadequate to perform surveillance and data analyses, interpret data to develop program objectives, and perform program evaluation. An essential next step is the delineation of a set of critical, analytic STD field epidemiology functions to define appropriate standards against which epidemiologic capacity can be more precisely measured.

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