The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today published Governmental Public Health: Workforce and Infrastructure Improvement in Action, a review of the public health workforce and infrastructure across North Carolina. The paper provides an overview of select programs and opportunities within the NCDHHS Division of Public Health that aim to strengthen the public health infrastructure and support workforce development while reducing disparities and advancing equity.
As the COVID-19 pandemic gradually recedes, it has revealed several infrastructure needs requiring immediate attention, including a fragile public health workforce — more than half of whom reported at least one symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder, and nearly one in three reported considering leaving their public health organization in the next year.
"A well-funded, well-prepared and well-trained public health system is a necessity in keeping our communities healthy," said Dr. Susan Kansagra, Deputy State Health Officer and Senior Deputy Public Health Director. "With the loss of the public health workforce due to burnout and retirement from the pandemic, it is crucial the public health system attract new talent and build for resilience."
From 2008 to 2017, public health lost at least 40,000 job positions nationwide. In North Carolina, 60% of public health employees are over the age of 45 and post-millennials are near to missing from the workforce completely. This review covers some of the essential work underway by DPH to prioritize recruiting, retaining and growing the public health workforce in North Carolina. Those efforts include:
- Leveraging federal COVID-19 related funding to strengthen capacity and to address key workforce challenges as identified by DPH and North Carolina’s local health departments.
- Building a historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions paid internship program to attract people of color into public health.
- Launching a new NC Credentialed Public Health Nurse program that aims to attract and retain a skilled, diverse public health nurse workforce at the local level.
- Implementing a regional Public Health Workforce Initiative across the 10 local health department regions. By adopting a regional approach, the initiative will help to facilitate collaboration across counties and ensure capacity in key public health capabilities.
"Health and employment go hand in hand," said NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. "That’s why building a strong and inclusive workforce in our state, especially by investing in our health workforce, is a top priority."
In addition to a challenged workforce, North Carolina ranks 45th in the nation on public health spending. Compared to the national average, North Carolina spent $30 less per person on public health services in 2020.