The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services recently released Governmental Public Health: Workforce and Infrastructure Improvement in Action, a review of public health workforce and infrastructure in North Carolina.
The document provides an overview of some programs and opportunities within the NCDHHS Division of Public Health that aim to strengthen public health infrastructure and support workforce development while reducing disparities and advancing equity.
As the COVID-19 pandemic 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 said they plan to leave their public health organization in the next year.
“A well-funded, well-prepared and well-trained public health system is a necessity to keep our communities healthy,” said Dr. Susan Kansagra, Deputy Public Health Officer and Senior Deputy Director of Public Health. “With the loss of public health personnel due to burnout and retirement from the pandemic, it is crucial that the public health system attract new talent and build resilience.”
From 2008 to 2017, public health lost at least 40,000 jobs nationwide. In North Carolina, 60% of public health workers are over 45, and post-millennials are almost entirely absent from the workforce. This review covers some of the critical work being done by DPH to prioritize the recruitment, retention, and growth of the public health workforce in North Carolina.
• Leverage federal COVID-19 funding to build capacity and address key workforce challenges, as identified by DPH and local North Carolina health departments.
• Create a paid internship program for historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions to attract people of color to public health.
• Launched a new NC Certified Public Health Nursing program aimed at attracting and retaining a skilled and diverse public health nursing workforce locally.
• Implement a regional public health workforce initiative in the 10 local health service regions. By taking a regional approach, the initiative will help facilitate cross-county collaboration and ensure capacity in key public health capacities.
“Health and jobs go hand in hand,” said NCDHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley. “That’s why building a strong and inclusive workforce in our state, especially by investing in our healthcare workforce, is a top priority.”
In addition to a tough workforce, North Carolina ranks 45th in the nation in public health spending. Compared to the national average, North Carolina spent $30 less per person on public health services in 2020.