On July 22, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released two Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWR) related to the public health workforce. One examined the symptoms of mental health conditions and suicidal ideation among state, Tribal, local, and territorial public health workers surveyed during March 2022. (Thank you to the many NACCHO members who participated.) The report was a follow-up to a similar survey conducted in March and April 2021. Nearly half (48 percent) of public health workers surveyed in 2022 experienced symptoms of one of the mental health conditions, a slight drop from the 52.8 percent who reported experiencing symptoms last year. Survey participants who spent at least three-quarters of their time on COVID-19 response activities or who worked more than 60 hours per week were more prone to experiencing symptoms of mental health conditions. Respondents were less likely to report mental health symptoms if they could take time off or if they perceived an increase in mental health resources from their employer.
The second MMWR reported data from the 2021 Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey, a nationally representative survey of individual state and local governmental public health agency workers, which provide insight into public health workers’ demographic characteristics and experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, tenure, and intention to leave their organization. The survey showed the strain of the COVID-19 response, with 72 percent of respondents reporting that they worked fully or partially in a COVID-19 response role during March 2020 to January 2022. Concerningly, 44 percent of workers reported they were considering leaving their jobs within the next 5 years for retirement or other reasons. Apart from funding, 51 percent of respondents cited a need for additional staff capacity to respond to COVID-19.
These two reports highlight the importance of NACCHO’s ongoing federal legislative and policy work to strengthen and support the public health workforce.