Share this article on:

Thinking Beyond the Silos: Emerging Priorities in Workforce Development for State and Local Government Public Health Agencies

Kaufman, Nancy J. RN, MS; Castrucci, Brian C. MA; Pearsol, Jim MEd; Leider, Jonathon P. PhD; Sellers, Katie DrPH; Kaufman, Ira R. MS; Fehrenbach, Lacy M. MPH, CPH; Liss-Levinson, Rivka PhD; Lewis, Melissa MPH; Jarris, Paul E. MD; Sprague, James B. MD

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice: November/December 2014 - Volume 20 - Issue 6 - p 557–565
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000076
Original Articles

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.

This study focuses on the existing public health workforce, with the results aiming at informing the revisions public health academic programs and standards are experiencing nationally.

The Strategic Vision Group, Mequon, Wisconsin (Ms N Kaufman and Mr I Kaufman); de Beaumont Foundation, Bethesda, Maryland (Mr Castrucci and Drs Leider and Sprague); Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Arlington, Virginia (Mr Pearsol, Dr Sellers, Dr Liss-Levinson and Lewis, and Dr Jarris); and Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, Washington, District of Columbia (Ms Fehrenbach).

Correspondence: Brian C. Castrucci, MA, de Beaumont Foundation, 5272 River Road, Suite 530, Bethesda, MD 20816 (

This work was funded through a grant from the de Beaumont Foundation.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citation appears in the printed text and is provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's Web site (

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License, where it is permissible to download and share the work provided it is properly cited. The work cannot be changed in any way or used commercially.

© 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.