Staffing Up

Staffing Up: Determining Public Health Workforce Levels Needed to Serve the Nation

On February 10, 2022, PHNCI and the de Beaumont Foundation hosted a webinar on the first-of-its-kind research-based estimation of the number of public health workers needed in state and local health departments.

Moderator Jessica Solomon Fisher, MCP, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives at PHNCI at PHAB led a lively conversation on why it is a critical time for action on workforce needs. Panelists included:

  • Brian Castrucci, DrPH, MA, President and CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation
  • Nafissa Cisse Egbuonye, PhD, MPH, Public Health Director at Black Hawk County Public Health
  • Jeanette Kowalik, PhD, MPH, President of Jael Solutions Consulting
  • Megan McClaire, MSPH, Chief Deputy Director, Los Angeles Department of Public Health

Panelists answered audience questions, dove into the value of the estimate and calculator for governmental health departments, and shared experiences from their work. We encourage you view and share the recording to prepare for the Staffing Up calculator release this summer.

Despite the critical role that state and local governmental public health departments play in ensuring the safety, security, and prosperity of local communities, they have been consistently underfunded. Budget and staffing cuts have weakened the nation’s collective health and increased its vulnerability to emerging infectious disease and unchecked chronic disease. In the past decade, state and local health departments lost 15 percent of their essential staff. These cuts have limited the ability of health departments to plan for and respond to emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic and to meet the daily needs of their communities."

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. The “Staffing Up: Determining Public Health Workforce Levels Needed to Serve the Nation” (Staffing Up) initiative has begun to make the case for sufficient staffing to protect the public’s health.

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 the Staffing Up workforce initiative. The goal of these effort was to develop a national estimate of staffing needed to perform the foundational public health services. The estimate below, +80,000 full-time equivalents, will support efforts to ensure sufficient funding for the public health system in the United States.

View the research brief here and the full project report, Protecting the Public's Health: An Estimate of Staffing Needed to Serve the Nation, here, to learn more.

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.

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.