ASTHO and the de Beaumont Foundation Launch First-Ever Workforce Development Challenge

Also posted on the Association of State and Territorial Health Official (ASTHO) blog.

ASTHO has partnered with the de Beaumont Foundation to launch the first-ever national “Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs (PH WINS) Model Policies and Practices Challenge.” This challenge will provide state and territorial health agencies and local health departments with the opportunity to identify and submit successful and transformative workforce development policies and practices for recognition as model policies and receipt of one of three $10,000 awards.

Through this challenge, both ASTHO and the de Beaumont Foundation will highlight workforce innovations that are changing the public health field. Population health cannot improve without a robust, well-trained, and sustained public health workforce. Today’s public health workforce must have the training, tools, and development supports that our increasingly diverse populations and their evolving health needs demand. Yet research indicates that most workforce development efforts are focused on discipline-specific skills, rather than cross-cutting areas such as systems thinking, change management, and effective communication. These skills are needed to adequately address the following public health workforce challenges:

  • In 2014, nearly 40 percent of the workforce said they were planning to leave their jobs by 2020.
  • Preliminary evidence suggests that governmental public health agencies generally do not have succession plans in place in order to address what appears to be possible large-scale turnover in the workforce.
  • According to the 2014 PH WINS report, identified skills gaps in the workforce include policy analysis and development, business and financial management, and systems-thinking.
  • While the overwhelming majority of agencies and departments support a “culture of learning,” only 59 percent of the workforce said that education and training objectives were institutionalized in their performance reviews.

To advance the public’s health, workforce investments beyond discipline-specific competencies must take center stage. Strategic skills development (i.e. systems-thinking and policy analysis), as well as robust recruitment and retention programs (i.e. diversity and inclusion practices, cultural competency trainings, and creativity incentives), are key drivers in employee satisfaction, the recruitment of stellar talent, and improved outputs. Using solutions like these, state, territorial, and local health agencies are poised to confront the workforce development and human resources challenges that stagnate the public health field.

The challenge aims to highlight examples of model policies or programs that may include succession planning, fostering innovation and creativity in team members, equitable recruitment and hiring practices, workforce and professional development and supports, among others. All policies and practices submitted for the challenge will be categorized by topic and included in a national database to facilitate the sharing of best practices with other state health agencies and local health departments.

Applications are due July 7, 2017. To learn more about the challenge and submit your model policy or program, please visit ASTHO’s website. Questions can be directed to Kyle Bogaert, director of workforce research.

ASTHO and the de Beaumont Foundation’s shared mission is to produce cutting-edge research and resources that empower public health officials at every level. This challenge is an effort to celebrate and honor what you – our front line champions of public health in states, territories, and cities across the country – are doing to elevate the people and the tools we need to make America healthy. It is our firm belief that directly investing in and cultivating the present public health workforce will help produce the best and brightest community health outcomes for all.

Authors: Kyle Bogaert, Director of Workforce Research, ASTHO and Elizabeth Harper, Senior Director of Research and Evaluation, ASTHO

Elsewhere: Removing the Surgeon General: What’s Next for Public Health?

de Beaumont Foundation President & CEO, Ed Hunter, discusses developments at the intersection of public health and politics in the wake of the dismissal of the 19th Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy. Read Removing the Surgeon General: What’s Next for Public Health? on Medium here.

Six Months at the de Beaumont Foundation

A year ago, I was starting my final semester of my MPH coursework, writing my master’s thesis, interning at the CDC, and applying to post-grad positions. Again and again, I answered the question: “Describe your interests, strengths, and qualifications for this position, and how it will benefit your long-term career plans.”

My biggest obstacle was always the word limit — because I want to do it all: to address social determinants of health; to improve health equity; to conduct, communicate, and translate research into action in the form of policy. That’s a tall order for a career in public health, and a near-impossible expectation for a year-long fellowship. But in the past six months at the de Beaumont Foundation as the ASPPH Philanthropy Fellow, I’ve been able to work on projects related to all of the above:

  • Addressing social determinants, translating research: With the BUILD Health Challenge, I’ve learned about how decisions are made about a national program that brings together partners from healthcare/hospital systems, public health departments, and nonprofit community organizations to address social determinants of health. I’ve also been engaged in communicating the research on, and evaluation of, these cross-sector collaborations.
  • Targeting health equity, conducting research: Collaborating with coauthors from around the country, I crafted research studies based on data from the Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey (PH WINS). The questions we’re addressing with this work target issues of equity and diversity in the public health workforce. Because of my training and interest in environmental health, I’m also working on a project characterizing the environmental health workforce.
  • Research to policy: In preparations for the launch of CityHealth, I’ve learned about the process for using and communicating research to generate political will around policies that impact public health.
  • Action-oriented research: Through partnerships with the Public Health Foundation and National Network of Public Health Institutes, I’ve participated in a project developing evaluation of the public health courses offered through the TrainingFinder Real-time Affiliate Integrated Network (TRAIN).
  • Communicating: I’ve participated in health-related conversations at local, regional, and national levels. Through attending meetings and events hosted by the American Public Health Association, the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, Grantmakers In Health, The Atlantic, the National Center for Healthy Housing, Kaiser Permanente, and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, I’ve realized that while the conversation may take a different form, shape, or tone depending on who is in the room, there is broad support for, and innovative work on, improving population health, eliminating health disparities, and addressing social determinants of health.

Through these experiences, my perspective of the field and role of public health has changed. Beyond developing my research and communication skills, this fellowship experience is revealing the big-picture “why” and “how” of public health work. I’ll continue to ask these questions not only for the duration of my fellowship, but throughout my career:

  • How can we articulate the value of public health across and with other sectors?
  • How can we best conduct research that leads to action? Is our research question actionable, and have we partnered with those who have the authority to take action?
  • When critically reflecting on the field of public health, what role can we play in being part of the solution?

During my MPH program, I proudly rooted my academic identity in my departmental affiliation with environmental health. While I’m passionate about environmental issues, the career I seek necessitates crossing disciplinary boundaries, a broad view of the field of public health, and viewing issues through multiple perspectives. By embracing this transitional stage of my career, I am more prepared to be a part of our field’s shift into “Public Health 3.0” which “emphasizes cross-sector collaboration and environmental, policy, and systems-level actions that directly affect the social determinants of health.”

I don’t want the work I do to be inaccessible within a silo, nor can I claim to work across and between silos before having a clearer understanding how the whole farm operates. This experience has given me a bird’s eye view, along with invaluable insight into how leaders prioritize the challenges and opportunities we face as a field – as well as the motivation to continue to develop as an advocate for public health.

Interested in becoming the next ASPPH Philanthropy Fellow at the de Beaumont Foundation? ASPPH is now accepting applications. Apply by March 24, 2017