Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey (PH WINS)

Grant Amount: $474,866
Recipient: Association of State and Territorial Health Officials

Previous assessments of public health workers have been oriented towards specific and localized groups but have not addressed the cross-cutting needs of the public health workforce. On April 17-18, 2013, the de Beaumont Foundation and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) convened 31 representatives from all levels of national public health leadership groups to collectively assess the priorities, needs, and characteristics of the public health workforce. The ASTHO/de Beaumont Public Health Workforce Strategy meeting was part of a multi-year commitment to identify the top strategic challenges and opportunities that the current and future public health workforce must address.

Twenty-six workforce training needs were identified through pre-meeting interviews and from this list, systems thinking, communicating persuasively, and change management/flexibility were identified as top priorities. Reaching consensus around these critical priorities sets a clear agenda to create trainings and tools for a stronger public health workforce. Building on this work, de Beaumont and ASTHO identified an expert panel to develop and implement an innovative, national survey that will measure the strengths, weaknesses, attitudes, skills, and beliefs of the public health workforce. The Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey (PH WINS) was launched in 2014 and is the largest-ever survey of the public health workforce. The final product is a full and detailed report on the country’s current public health workforce and an effective roadmap for the field’s future development.

Results from PH WINS were released in October 2015. Key findings included:

  • Considerable workforce turnover. According to the survey, 38 percent of workers plan to leave their current position before 2020. Of those planning to leave, 25 percent plan to retire and 13 percent plan to leave for a position outside of public health. Of note, those most likely to leave for reasons other than retirement include individuals aged 25-40, racial and ethnic minorities, and those with fewer than 10 years of experience in public health.
  • Progress on pay gaps by gender and race. Pay disparity in public health is better than the private sector and other areas of government, but more work remains to be done. Women and people of color make less than their white male counterparts despite the fact that the public health workforce is predominantly female and relatively diverse. On average, both women and people of color in state public health agencies earn 90 to 95 cents on the dollar compared to their male and white counterparts, after matching for seniority, experience, and educational attainment. There is no pay gap between Asian staff and their white counterparts.
  • Need for continued efforts to improve diversity. Only 7 percent of public health workers are Hispanic/Latino, compared to 17 percent of the general population. However, both the Black and Asian public health workforce are represented in proportion to the population as a whole, at 13 percent and 5 percent, respectively. Nevertheless, 70 percent of the workforce identifies as white, indicating room for improvement in supporting people of color in public health.

Read the press release or read the full Journal of Public Health Management & Practice supplement, including peer-reviewed analysis of the data and expert commentaries examining workforce characteristics, public health skills and capacities, and policy trends. An overview of the results is available as an infographic.

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