Strategies for a Stronger, More Resilient US Public Health Workforce

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In the ongoing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of a robust public health workforce has become undeniably clear. As the frontline defenders of our communities’ health, the public health workforce in the United States faces unique challenges that must be addressed to ensure a healthier and more equitable future for all.

Personnel Shortages & Investment Needs

One of the most pressing issues facing the public health workforce is the shortage of personnel. According to the Annual Review of Public Health, an aging workforce and insufficient investment in public health infrastructure contribute significantly to this problem. Many public health agencies are struggling to recruit and retain qualified staff, which could have severe implications for community health.

Investing in Public Health Infrastructure

Tackling the personnel shortage requires a multi-pronged approach. The Annual Review of Public Health underscores the need for increased funding for public health programs, particularly in infrastructure such as laboratories, data systems, and emergency response systems. These are vital to responding to public health emergencies like the ongoing pandemic.

Recruitment and Retention Strategies

Public health agencies must develop targeted recruitment strategies that appeal to a diverse candidate pool to attract and keep qualified staff. Offering competitive salaries and benefits is a crucial step in retaining talent. Creating a supportive work environment that values employee well-being and provides opportunities for professional growth is equally essential.

Training and Professional Development

Investing in training and professional development opportunities for public health workers is vital for equipping them with the skills and knowledge necessary to respond to emerging threats. Public health agencies should also prioritize leadership development programs to cultivate the next generation of public health leaders capable of navigating future challenges.

Promoting Health Equity

Another key challenge is addressing health disparities and promoting health equity, especially in light of the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and other marginalized groups. Strategies for addressing this challenge include leveraging mobile technology for public health promotion, mitigating the effects of gentrification, and combating health misinformation exposure and disparities.


The Annual Review of Public Health highlights the crucial role the public health workforce plays in safeguarding and enhancing the health of communities across the United States. While the workforce faces ongoing challenges, there are numerous opportunities for improvement. By investing in public health infrastructure, refining recruitment and retention strategies, and tackling health disparities, we can build a robust and resilient public health workforce poised to meet future needs and improve the health and well-being of all Americans.


Leider, J. P., Yeager, V. A., Kirkland, C., Krasna, H., Hare Bork, R., & Resnick, B. (2023). The State of the US Public Health Workforce: Ongoing Challenges and Future Directions. Annual review of public health44, 323-341.

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