Thinking beyond the silos: Emerging priorities in workforce development for state and local government public health agencies

Nancy J. Kaufman, Brian C. Castrucci, Jim Pearsol, Jonathon P. Leider, Katie Sellers, Ira R. Kaufman, Lacy M. Fehrenbach, Rivka Liss-Levinson, Melissa Lewis, Paul E. Jarris, James B. Sprague

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Context: Discipline-specific workforce development initiatives have been a focus in recent years. This is due, in part, to competency-based training standards and funding sources that reinforce programmatic silos within state and local health departments.

Objective: National leadership groups representing the specific disciplines within public health were asked to look beyond their discipline-specific priorities and collectively assess the priorities, needs, and characteristics of the governmental public health workforce.

Design: The challenges and opportunities facing the public health workforce and crosscutting priority training needs of the public health workforce as a whole were evaluated. Key informant interviews were conducted with 31 representatives from public health member organizations and federal agencies. Interviews were coded and analyzed for major themes. Next, 10 content briefs were created on the basis of priority areas within workforce development. Finally, an in-person priority setting meeting was held to identify top workforce development needs and priorities across all disciplines within public health.

Participants: Representatives from 31 of 37 invited public health organizations participated, including representatives from discipline-specific member organizations, from national organizations and from federal agencies.

Results: Systems thinking, communicating persuasively, change management, information and analytics, problem solving, and working with diverse populations were the major crosscutting areas prioritized.

Conclusions: Decades of categorical funding created a highly specialized and knowledgeable workforce that lacks many of the foundational skills now most in demand. The balance between core and specialty training should be reconsidered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)557-565
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Public Health Management and Practice
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 8 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Public health departments
  • Workforce
  • Workforce development

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