Dr. Brian Dixon, Associate Professor at the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, says the workforce pipeline is filling up with public health students; Dr. Umair Shah, Washington Secretary of Health, explains the challenge...
Dr. Brian Dixon, Associate Professor at the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, says the workforce pipeline is filling up with public health students; Dr. Umair Shah, Washington Secretary of Health, explains the challenge of keeping people engaged when a crisis ends or lasts too long; and the ASTHO Public Health TechXpo may be over, but you can catch recordings of the discussions and panels by logging in from the Expo home page.
This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Monday, May 16th, 2022. I'm Robert Johnson.
Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
Across public health, jurisdictions are looking for people. Thousands of new workers are needed just to keep agencies running. A panel of experts talked about the workforce during ASTHO's Public Health TechXpo last week. Indiana University public health professor Dr. Brian Dixon says help is on the way.
There is a large number of new public health workers coming down the pipeline. We're trying to attract some of them to informatics away from other traditional public health programs; but we see a huge interest in general in public health careers. Which is great because, before the pandemic, we were—we spent a lot of time, you know, ASTHO's PH WINS survey, for example, showed that there are a lot of public health people planning to leave practice within the next five years.
Dixon says many are signing up hoping to make a difference.
My students who tend to be younger in age—like they want to make a difference in the world, some of them were on their way to med school, some were maybe on their way to nursing school—and we were able to sort of attract them to sort of say, "You can still make a difference, but in a public health career."
And so, appealing to that sense in some of these job postings, or promotions, or when you're interviewing people, kind of selling them on the impact that the agencies have in people's lives. And again, that is a little bit easier now coming out of COVID because public health became front and center.
Dixon adds competitive salaries and tuition benefits can be a big help when hiring new recruits.
I think, you know, if states, for example, offered tuition remission programs for people in public health service, that would also be helpful. So, we can ask the feds to do it. I'm all in favor of CDC or others doing a tuition remission like HRSA does. But, you know, we can also think about that being implemented at a state level as something to help attract people who come out of these programs with debt.
Partnerships are a hot topic in public health. The pandemic gave agencies new reason to engage community and business groups. Washington state health secretary Dr. Umair Shah speaking on a TechXpo panel last week said the challenge is how to keep partnerships going when a crisis ends—or in the case of the pandemic, when it goes too long.
This pandemic has been not just a singular response for two weeks or two months—this has been two years plus and counting. So, I think one of the challenges is that you have the urgency of people coming in in the crisis and saying, "Let me pitch in."
The challenge is the sustainability of being able to do that when you don't have a crisis and when people go back to their respective day jobs and their livelihoods and say, "You know what? I'm not interested in that issue; or I am, but I've got five other things that are on the horizon." And that's where the partnership comes in.
Shah says it's all about the value to everyone involved.
If we can show a win-win for the private sector, here's what you're also going to gain from this but also win for us. We've got public sector challenges that we frankly cannot solve on our own. We've got to work together. We would bring that to the table, then I think everybody comes out on top.
Our coverage of the second ASTHO Public Health TechXpo wraps up tomorrow with a discussion about the future of public health data infrastructure. Among those on the panel, Washington Post national health reporter Lena Sun.
The TechXpo may be over, but you can catch recordings of the discussions and panels by logging in from the Xpo home page using the link in the show notes.
If you didn't have time to register, do it as soon as you can—that way you can watch everything that happened last week on demand.
That'll do it for today's newscast. We are back tomorrow morning with our final day of reporting from the 2022 ASTHO Public Health TechXpo.
I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day.