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Studying an IllDefined Workforce: Public Health Workforce Research

Moore, Jean MSN

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice:
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e3181b23978

This article describes challenges, issues, and strategies associated with public health workforce research. The factors that contribute to workforce supply and demand imbalances are reviewed, and the unique difficulties encountered with studies of public health workers are identified. Two case studies of previous public health workforce research conducted by the New York Center for Health Workforce Studies are used to illustrate how different levels of analyses can be used to better understand recruitment and retention issues of public health workers and to inform programs and policies designed to ensure a well-sized and competent public health workforce. Case study 1, conducted in 2005, assessed supply and demand gaps in state and local health departments in six states and helped estimate the scope of recruitment and retention problems in these agencies. Case study 2, conducted in 2006, provided a detailed examination of the current public health workforce in local health departments in New York. Data drawn from this study were used to identify specific workforce challenges faced by these agencies. Findings from these case studies, conducted at different levels of analyses (multistate vs single state) and using different research methods (qualitative vs quantitative), are reviewed, highlighting differences based on scope and methods. Finally, suggested areas for future studies about the public health workforce are considered.

In Brief

This article describes challenges, issues, and strategies associated with public health workforce research and uses two case studies to illustrate different approaches to public health workforce research.

Author Information

Served as the Director of the New York Center for Health Workforce Studies since 2003. Her work focuses on research about the supply, demand, use, distribution, and education of the health workforce. Before joining the Center, she spent 15 years at the NYS Department of Health, where she was responsible for health workforce policy development and programs. She is currently enrolled in the Doctor of Public Health Program at University at Albany.

Corresponding Author: Jean Moore, MSN, Center for Health Workforce Studies, School of Public Health, University at Albany, 1 University Pl, Rensselaer, NY 12144 (

The 2005 Six-State Case Study of the Public Health Workforce was supported by funding from the Bureau of Health Professions of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), US Department of Health and Human Services. To view the full report, go to the HRSA Web site The 2006 Enumeration of the Local Public Health Workforce in New York was supported by funding from the New York State Department of Health. To view the full report, go to the Center for Health Workforce Studies Web site:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.