As public health agencies transform, ASTHO launches new interactive data visualization tool to track progress and trends

ASTHO profile data shows public health workforce has more temporary and vacant positions than ever

ARLINGTON, VA, December 21, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The Association of State and Territory Health Officials (ASTHO) today released data from its ASTHO Profile of State and Territory Public Health (Profile), the only source of comprehensive information on resources and trends in state and territory public health agencies. The profile provides a look at the infrastructure and work overseen by the public health workforce in all states District of ColumbiaUS territories and freely associated states.

The results of the 2022 Profile survey are presented in a new dashboard that provides viewers with interactive data elements, stories connecting data to action, new information focused on health equity and informatics, and separate profile pages state owned. The dashboard also includes a feature that allows agencies to identify countries and territories with specific characteristics or that are working on similar projects.

“The information in the ASTHO Profile Dashboard is critical to understanding state and territory public health infrastructure and how this has changed over time across the country,” says Michael Fraser, Ph.D., CEO of ASTHO. “The 2022 data reveals that public health agencies have more temporary positions than ever before, a trend that is certainly troubling as agencies look to increase staff following the pandemic.”

Key Findings:

  • Growth in vacancies and temporary and contract workers is outpacing employment. The rate of temporary employees per 100,000 population is stable; however, the ratio of temporary workers to full-time employees increased by 39% from 2019 to 2022, with 2.2 temporary or contract workers for every 10 full-time employees. The vacancy rate per 100,000 population has increased and now accounts for over 11% of all public health positions.
  • Public health costs rise after COVID-19. Over the past decade, average and per capita costs for public health agencies have varied. Fiscal year 2021 saw significant increases in public health spending in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although COVID-19 accounted for roughly one-third of total state health agency spending in 2021, spending declined across many categories of public health spending.
  • Agencies demonstrate commitment to addressing health disparities. Almost all agencies are engaged in health equity activities, and the findings highlight the potential benefits of having a full-time health equity director. State health agencies with a full-time health equity director more often reported that they had established priorities for racial/ethnic populations that experienced avoidable inequities. In addition, agencies with a full-time health equity director more often reported offering specific training on key health equity topics.
  • Agencies are modernizing data systems as they struggle to hire IT talent. Many health agencies report having a strategic informatics plan (eg, data modernization plan) and receiving capacity funding from the CDC. Although the average number of public health professionals serving the role of informatics specialist has increased since 2019, many agencies report significant challenges in recruiting and retaining staff to fill the role. A computer science career series can help. Government agencies without a track record in informatics careers more often report finding staff recruitment and retention very challenging. Most agencies collaborate with private and academic partners to support their ongoing informatics work.

More in-depth information about the results of the profile can be found on the dashboard, as well as in a summary of the agency’s public health activities, financial resources and workforce at www.astho.org/profile.

The State and Territorial Public Health Profile Study and Dashboard was supported by funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Cooperative Agreement Number NU38OT000290 and a grant to strengthen the US Public Health Infrastructure, Workforce, and Data Systems ( NE11OE000066) and by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services, or the Foundation.

ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United Statesthe territories of the United States and the freely associated states and District of Columbia, as well as more than 100,000 public health professionals employed by these agencies. ASTHO members, the chief health officers of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.

SOURCE Association of State and Territory Health Officers

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