The de Beaumont Foundation and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) recently convened 31 national public health leadership groups to collectively assess the priorities, needs, and characteristics of the governmental public health workforce. The ASTHO/de Beaumont Public Health Workforce Strategy meeting is part of a multi-year commitment on the part of both organizations to identify the top strategic challenges and opportunities that the current and future public health workforce must address. This is the first time that representatives from these national public health organizations from all levels and functions of the governmental public health workforce have come together to discuss cross-cutting training needs.
“Categorical public health funding drives silos in public health practice and leads to inefficiency and duplication. This project was built on the belief that public health is more than just the sum of its silos,” says James B. Sprague, MD, Chairman and CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation. “We believe there are foundational public health workforce needs that can only be identified by looking across our national landscape.”
Organizers challenged the 15 ASTHO affiliates, eight ASTHO peer groups, two federal agencies, and other partners in attendance to look beyond their individual priorities and think about universal public health workforce needs. Twenty-six workforce training needs were identified through pre-meeting interviews; from this list, systems thinking, communicating persuasively, and change management/flexibility were identified as top priorities during the meeting.
“The information gained from this meeting and the conclusion of this larger project will help to enhance coordination among ASTHO, its affiliates and peer networks, as well as key partners in order to help foster a stronger learning culture within health departments and stimulate more research on workforce development,” said Paul E. Jarris, MD, MBA, executive director of ASTHO. “In an environment of growing demands and diminishing resources we need to focus our workforce development efforts on trainings that will have the most impact for the most people.”
Reaching agreement around these critical priorities sets a clear agenda to create trainings and tools for a stronger public health workforce. Building on the work performed during the meeting, an expert panel has been identified to develop and implement an innovative, national survey to measure the strengths, weaknesses, attitudes, skills, and beliefs of the public health workforce. The final product will be a full and detailed report on the country’s current public health workforce and an effective roadmap for the field’s future development.