Using Public Health Workforce Surveillance Data to Prioritize Retention Efforts for Younger Staff

Katie Sellers, Jonathon P. Leider, Lara Lamprecht, Rivka Liss-Levinson, Brian C. Castrucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: The public health enterprise has a people problem. An aging workforce coupled with a sustained, strong economy and healthcare sector has made the recruitment and retention of young, educated staff challenging. Approximately one third of public health staff aged 33 years and younger are considering leaving their organization in the next year. Their reasons for leaving, and considerations for staying, are not well characterized within public health. Methods: Data were drawn from the Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey, a nationally representative survey of state and local governmental public health employees across the U.S. In 2017, a total of 43,701 staff responded. Descriptive statistics across age groups were examined, and reasons for leaving were characterized. A latent class model and an intent-to-leave logit model were fit in 2019. Results: Pay and lack of opportunities for advancement were most frequently selected as reasons for considering leaving. Results of a logit model showed that being somewhat or very dissatisfied (versus somewhat or very satisfied) was associated with higher odds of intending to leave (AOR=4.4, p<0.0001), as was pay dissatisfaction (AOR=2.0, p<0.0001). Scoring higher than the agency median on a construct measuring perceived lack of organizational support (AOR=1.8, p<0.0001) and on a scale measuring burnout (AOR=2.6, p<0.0001) was also associated with higher odds of intending to leave. Conclusions: Many factors associated with an increased intent to leave are present among all age groups. However, support is needed for managers as they attempt to develop and implement solutions that seek to retain the younger workforce in particular. Creating paths for promotion, competitive pay practices, organizational support, and engagement are all critical for retention in this group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)562-569
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican journal of preventive medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by the de Beaumont Foundation .

Funding Information:
This study was funded by the de Beaumont Foundation. KS, JPL, and LL conceptualized the study. KS created an initial draft of the manuscript. JPL conducted the data analysis. RL-L provided additional data analysis. All authors contributed to the interpretation of data, writing, and critical review of the article. Lamprecht is employed by the Texas Department of State Health Services but conducted this study in her personal capacity. The Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey was developed and implemented as a partnership between the de Beaumont Foundation and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. Drs. Leider and Liss-Levinson received funding from de Beaumont to support their time on the study. The authors have no conflicts of interest and no financial disclosures to declare.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Journal of Preventive Medicine

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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