FAYETTEVILLE -- The city's Board of Health recommended paying the city's public health officer and defined the professional services expected of the position during a meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Mayor Lioneld Jordan presented the scope of work for the position at a meeting Friday. The public health officer will perform professional services such as developing a covid-19 recovery plan, addressing racism as a public health crisis, developing a plan for future pandemics and giving reports to city officials. The officer will also execute a marketing and communications plan to share key messages with the public as well as maintain a budget for expenditures necessary to meet public needs.
The board approved provisions to the final scope of work discussed in the meeting Friday, such as serving as a liaison for the School District and businesses. They agreed that there is a need for a full-time public health officer position as the delta variant spreads.
The Fayetteville City Council will evaluate the board's recommendation, and if the council approves, the position will be open for qualified applicants. Pediatrician Marti Sharkey has been volunteering in the role since she was elected to the board in July 2020. The City Council will send a contract back to the board if they approve the recommendation, and the contract could go to Sharkey or another qualified applicant.
Some initiatives Sharkey has taken over the past year include developing a reopening plan for the Fayetteville Public Library, securing an ultra-cold freezer for vaccine storage, working at local vaccination clinics and facilitating two local mass clinics. Sharkey has also helped hundreds of Arkansans secure vaccination appointments and arranged for mobile units to provide homebound individuals with vaccines.
Sharkey wrote in a letter to Jordan on July 13 that it is her desire to see Fayetteville through the pandemic and leave it with a strong pandemic plan for the next public health crisis. Developing the plan would take hundreds of hours to do appropriately, she said.
"Knowing that city is receiving $17.9 million that is supposed to be used to address the public health emergency and specifically to support local public health endeavors, I would be doing a disservice to the City Health Officer role not to request more funding," Sharkey said.
In addition, Sharkey said that increased funding is needed for media campaigns and outreach as well as supplies for testing and vaccine clinic needs.
"Public health has been underfunded for decades, which is one of the many reasons that the response to the pandemic has struggled," Sharkey said. "We have the opportunity and the funding now available to remedy this."