Staffing Up

Despite complex population health challenges, funding for public health has not kept up with inflation over the past several decades. Further, since 2008, the United States has seen a 20 percent decrease in its governmental public health workforce, which was already operating with minimally sufficient levels of staff. Continued funding and subsequent staff reductions have severely impacted capacity and hindered the ability of our nation’s health departments to address community needs and protect and promote health in the communities they serve. Never has this been more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While several frameworks have outlined the activities and responsibilities of governmental public health departments, none have articulated the number of staff needed to carry out those activities based on the size of the jurisdiction served. This is a critical question for the field to answer to make the case for sufficient staffing to protect the public’s health.

Developing a Workforce Estimate

From September 2020-June 2021, the Public Health National Center for Innovations (PHNCI) at the Public Health Accreditation Board partnered with the de Beaumont Foundation on a workforce initiative, “Staffing Up: Determining Public Health Workforce Levels Needed to Serve the Nation.” The goal of the initiative was to develop a national estimate of staffing needed to perform the foundational public health services. The estimate will support efforts to ensure sufficient funding for the public health system in the United States.

Public health experts, including representatives from state, local, and Tribal health departments, federal partners, non-governmental partners, and academia, served on a Steering Committee and a Research Advisory Committee to inform the work.

A policy brief with the initiatives’ findings will be available soon.

Developing a Workforce Calculator

The development of the national estimate relied on modeling existing expenditure and staffing data for a sample of local and state health departments. A partnership between PHNCI, the de Beaumont Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Center for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support will support additional data collection, analysis, and modeling efforts that will guide the development of a public health workforce calculator that will allow health departments to determine the number and type of staff to provide sufficient levels of public health services.

The calculator will be released in Summer 2022.

Additional resources will be added as they become available.