Recruiting and retaining public health employees and ensuring they have the skills necessary to respond are vital for meeting public health needs. As the first study examining health department (HD) workforce development plans (WDPs), this study presents gaps and strategies identified in WDPs across 201 accredited HDs (168 initial/33 reaccreditation plans).
This cross-sectional study employed qualitative review and content analysis of WDPs submitted to the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) between March 2016 and November 2021.
Main Outcome Measures:
Eight overarching workforce themes were examined: planning/coordination, leadership, organizational culture, workplace supports/retention, recruitment, planning for departmental training, delivery of departmental training, and partnership/engagement. Within each theme, related subthemes were identified. Coders indicated whether the WDP (1) identified the subtheme as a gap; (2) stated an intent to address the subtheme; and/or (3) identified a strategy for addressing the subtheme.
The most common gaps identified included prepare workforce for community engagement/partnership (34.3%, n = 69), followed by resource/fund training (24.9%, n = 50). The subtheme that had the most instances of an identified strategy to address it was assess training needs (84.1%, n = 169), followed by foster quality improvement (QI) culture/provide QI training (63.2%, n = 127). While both of these strategies were common among the majority of HDs, those subthemes were rarely identified as a gap. Secondary findings indicate that increase recruitment diversity/recruit from a more diverse applicant pool was rarely identified as a gap (6.0%, n = 12) and rarely had an identified strategy for addressing the subtheme (9.0%, n = 18).
While HDs recognized many workforce gaps, HDs did not always propose a strategy for addressing them within the WDP. Conversely, some WDPs proposed strategies for subthemes that did not reflect recognized gaps. Such discrepancies between identified gaps and strategies in WDPs may suggest areas where HDs could use additional support and guidance.