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The size of the public health workforce has been declining for more than a decade in state and federal health agencies as experienced public health workers retire and new graduates are hired into the private, industry, and academic positions. Even though 40,000 public health graduates enter the workforce each year, there remains a quarter of a million-person shortage in the civil workforce. This large gap in need is a direct reflection of funding cuts and low salaries at local and state health departments, the growing student loan crisis, an aging U.S. workforce, post-pandemic empathy burnout, and high rates of employee turnover in small departments.

Local health departments have historically played a critical role in improving our nation’s health by saving lives and making communities healthier. As the nation entered the COVID-19 pandemic, it was clear that local and state health departments were experiencing a staffing deficit, impeding their ability to deliver core capabilities, much less being able to address the most significant public health crisis of this century quickly and comprehensively.

Public health agencies, reimagined

Our vision at Maximus Public Health is to assist local and state health departments in reimagining how they serve local communities with essential public health services. We facilitate innovative partnerships, data system modernization, and strategies to build a skilled workforce through organizational needs assessments, individual training, and professional development programs to help address future public health threats.

Public health workforce, empowered

Public health staff should feel supported in their current positions and be incentivized to pursue long careers in public health. We understand that establishing a highly skilled, trained, and diverse public health workforce enables community-informed programs and services that promote health equity, addresses the health needs of vulnerable populations, encourages healthier behaviors and environments, and enables swift response to emerging threats. As a private partner to local and state health departments, Maximus provides workforce services to meet the needs of communities and programs and to support complex public health data modernization efforts. Maximus can also assist with providing surge and supplemental staff for special projects, emergencies, and longer-term initiatives to meet the needs of the public.

Public health community, inclusive

The expansion of recruiting, hiring, and training for a diverse public health workforce is essential to advancing health equity in the future. As we continue to learn about the measurable impacts of social determinants of health, it is increasingly clear that the public health workforce of the future must be agile and skilled in collaborating with diverse agencies, coalitions, and communities to reflect the communities they serve. A workforce that represents various life experiences offers unique insights into ways of achieving health and creating opportunities for local communities to thrive. A diverse workforce includes individuals from all populations including Black, Indigenous, and other people of color; residents of rural and urban communities; LGBTQ+ people; people who represent the full spectrum of gender identity; immigrants and refugees from conflict zones; people with disabilities; people with low incomes; and others who face unique health-related challenges. Establishing this diverse workforce signals to communities most in need of health services that the health department is a welcoming place and facilitates trust among populations that may otherwise be distrustful.

Public health technology, agile

The public health technology landscape is evolving rapidly and demands a workforce agile in learning and integrating data systems. The health department of the future will require not only epidemiologists but also health information technologists, data scientists, and cybersecurity experts focused on modernizing disease surveillance, tracking, and reporting mechanisms.

Public health partnerships, cooperative

Our goal at Maximus Public Health is to listen to and learn from our partners, improve health delivery, and build the human and technological infrastructure needed to sustain public health. Through continued work with our existing local and state health department partners and collaborative partnerships with new agencies, we aim to build public health workforce capacity to protect and promote the public’s health over the long term.

About Maximus Center for Health Innovation

The Maximus Center for Health Innovation is led by a team of clinical, scientific, and policy experts guided by decades of experience and a deep understanding of how technology and health analytics are poised to revolutionize public health. Our team brings a wide range of experience to bear in areas such as epidemiology, GIS and data analytics, vaccination hesitancy, and health program implementation.