Knowing Where Public Health Is Going: Levels and Determinants of Workforce Awareness of National Public Health Trends

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Journal of Public Health Management and Practice




Context: Several recent developments are trending in public health, providing an important window into the future of policy and practice in the field. The extent to which public health workforce is aware of these trends has not been assessed.

Objective: This research examined the extent to which the public health workforce is familiar with 8 important developments and trends in public health and explored factors associated with variation in awareness levels.

Design: This study characterizes an observational cross-sectional design, based on analysis of secondary data collected by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials through the Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey (PH WINS).

Setting: Our study used data from those states for which representative samples for the local health department (LHD) employees were also available.

Participants: We included survey responses from employees of state health agencies' central offices and LHDs.

Main Outcome Measure: The primary outcome variable for the analysis was the level of awareness about emerging public health trends in the public health workforce.

Results: Awareness of emerging trends was lowest for Public Health Systems and Services Research; roughly 1 in 4 employees were aware of this trend. The second least heard of trends were Health in All Policies, and cross-jurisdictional sharing. The public health trends about which the highest proportion of public health employees had heard were implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and evidence-based public health practice. Awareness about public health trends was generally higher among state health agency employees than among LHD employees. Work environment, supervisory status, employee education, and female gender were significantly associated with higher awareness levels for both state health agency and LHD employees.

Conclusions: Public health trends that are important for health agencies should be brought to the spotlight in national dialogue in order to increase practitioner involvement in those initiatives.