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The Continuing Crisis in the Public Health Workforce

The Current Public Health Environment

The public health workforce is in the midst of a crisis, dealing with staff shortages, accelerated retirements and unfilled positions.

The current climate was exacerbated by Covid-19, but many challenges began long before 2020’s pandemic. The public health system underwent a significant contraction following the Great Recession in 2008-2009, losing more than 40,000 positions in state and local governments across the country. While some of those positions were regained with Covid-19 funds during the pandemic, recruitment, diversity and retention remain as challenges, especially for hard to fill positions in nursing and epidemiology. Public health staff report high rates of burnout due to the Covid-19 response and the political climate that resulted, including suffering symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. It is likely that there will be staff shortages for the foreseeable future, increased retirements, and departures to other parts of the healthcare industry competing for skills with higher compensation.

New Funding Streams Available

State and local health departments have been receiving significant amounts of one-time money, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recent allocation of $3.5 billion specifically for governmental public health efforts.

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has created a new workforce research center for public health. The AmeriCorps program has developed a specific public health component. These new initiatives were designed to build and support the workforce in governmental public health. As state and local health departments receive or apply for these various sources of workforce development funding, HMA can provide existing technical assistance and training to minimize inefficiencies and duplication of efforts that might be created by a fragmented approach across state and local units of government developing independent approaches to the utilization of WFD funds. 

HMA Workforce Expertise

The public health group at Health Management Associates (HMA) is made up of more than 100 colleagues with expertise in public or population health improvement, experienced working with national, state or local organizations seeking to improve public health outcomes. If your organization is looking to improve your public health workforce efforts, it is important to utilize expertise and consolidate efforts across the country so each unit of government is not “reinventing the wheel.” HMA can help multiple organizations in developing plans and coordinating processes for recruiting, training and development of the public health workforce.

HMA understands the skills that are needed to achieve high-performing public health and accountable care. Our expertise developing workforce within safety net delivery systems and accountable care organizations involve transferrable skills for the current challenges in building and developing the public health workforce. We have expertise in recruiting and are creating new training and retraining methods to meet the needs of public health teams, accountable care organizations, graduate medical education, nursing education, learning collaboratives, online training and team simulation training. We understand the care coordination, care management and IT support systems needed to backstop the workforce and meet quality and equity goals.

Contact our experts:

Linda Vail

Linda Vail


Linda Vail is an accomplished public health leader, creative problem solver and strategic thinker. She has extensive experience in opioid … Read more