Retirements, Layoffs Could Lead to Under-Staffing at Public Health Departments

Significant percentage could leave workforce by 2020; public sector faces recruitment challenges
Significant percentage could leave workforce by 2020; public sector faces recruitment challenges

HealthDay News — The public health workforce at the local and state levels will experience a significant loss of employees through 2020, due to retirement as well as other reasons for turnover, according to a study published online Jan. 11 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Jonathon P. Leider, PhD, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and colleagues analyzed four large public health workforce data sources (from 2014 to 2016) to investigate measures of workforce demand, voluntary separations, and workforce employees likely to retire at state and local health departments.

The researchers found that at the state and local level, approximately 197,000 staff members are employed in health departments. This is a decline of more than 50,000 from 2008. At least 65,000 staff will leave their organizations during fiscal years 2016 to 2020, with up to 100,000 staff leaving (if all planned retirements occur by 2020). More than 223,000 people received a formal public health degree from 2000 to 2015, and more than 25,000 students will receive a public health degree each year through 2020.

"Demands for public health staff could possibly be met by the influx of graduates from schools and programs of public health," the authors write. "However, substantial implications exist for transferal of institutional knowledge and ability to recruit and retain the best staff to sufficiently meet demand."

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