The Alarming Exodus of the Governmental Public Health Workforce is an Urgent Call for Action

July 19, 2023 – The findings of a study on governmental public health workforce retention in the US, detailed in a recent Health Affairs article, found that public health professionals are leaving their positions at State and local health departments and other governmental agencies at an astonishing rate. The study, which analyzed data from the Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey (PH WINS) funded by the de Beaumont Foundation and conducted in collaboration with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), found that if separation trends continue, by 2025 as much as half of the governmental public health workforce will have left their positions.

Our nation’s health depends on having public health experts in these roles – as the recent COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated. As the leading voice of academic public health, ASPPH has created a Center for Public Health Workforce Development, which focuses on growing a diverse public health workforce for the future. We know that we can – and must – do more to guide students and graduates into civil service work in meaningful State and local governmental public health roles. We have been advocating to address recruitment and retention issues for the governmental public health workforce, including wage stagnation, student debt burden, and chronic underinvestment in the public health infrastructure and civil service. Key to the mission of ASPPH is to demonstrate and publicize the value of State and local health jurisdictions and support graduates and alumni entering and staying in governmental public health.

ASPPH is working to advance the planned Public Health Alumni Career Trajectories Survey (PH ACTS), resulting in a publicly available data set. PH ACTS will complement existing data collection efforts to help address and answer questions around recruitment and retention of the governmental public health workforce. Further, ASPPH will continue efforts in support of the Public Health Student Loan Repayment Program.

We are in agreement with the authors of the Health Affairs article that the exodus of the governmental public health workforce, “has enormous societal impact and speaks directly to the nation’s continued readiness to respond to future pandemics.” ASPPH-member schools and programs of public health play a vital role in advancing health in their communities and will collaborate with our State and local public health partners on a concerted, multi-pronged approach to advance the governmental public health workforce both quantitatively and qualitatively in a sustained fashion.

The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) is a 501c3 membership organization located in Washington, DC. ASPPH’s mission is to strengthen the capacity of our member schools and programs by advancing leadership, excellence, and collaboration for academic public health. Our members are CEPH-accredited schools and programs of public health as well as schools and programs in applicant status
for CEPH-accreditation.

For more information: Emily Burke; Senior Director of Workforce Development and Applied Practice; (202) 296-0354.