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Retirement Intentions of the Public Health Nutrition Workforce

George, Alexa PhD, MPH, RD; Springer, Cary MS; Haughton, Betsy EdD, RD

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: March-April 2009 - Volume 15 - Issue 2 - p 127–134
doi: 10.1097/01.PHH.0000346010.51651.13

Background High retirement rates are anticipated throughout public health as baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) near retirement. Predicting retirement intention would aid workforce planning.

Subjects and Methods Participants were nutrition professionals/paraprofessionals 45 years and older in nutrition programs under official health agencies' authority who participated in a census enumeration and released their data for research. Secondary data analysis was conducted using selected factors from Beehr's Model of Retirement Behavior to determine whether significant (P ≤ .05) differences exist for and can be used to predict retirement intention (within 10 years) and years until intended retirement.

Results and Conclusions Of the 4 460 individuals, 47.2% intended to retire within 10 years. Retirement intention was predicted by age category, years of experience in nutrition/dietetics and public health nutrition, agency type, retirement and vacation benefits, time in direct services, US Department of Health and Human Services region, and full-time/part-time status. Years until intended retirement was predicted by age category, years of nutrition/dietetics and public health nutrition experience, required training, and time in direct services. Results suggest retirement rates similar to the public health workforce overall. Findings can be used by managers/administrators to prepare their organizations for worker retirement or to influence retirement intention. Further research is necessary to determine other factors impacting retirement decision.

The purpose of this study was to examine the retirement intention of the public health nutrition workforce, age 45 and older, using secondary data analysis.

Alexa George, PhD, MPH, RD, was a doctoral student in the Department of Nutrition, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, at the time of this research.

Cary Springer, MS, is a statistician at the Statistical Consulting Center at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee.

Betsy Haughton, EdD, RD, is Professor and Director of Public Health Nutrition within the Department of Nutrition, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee.

Corresponding Author: Alexa George, PhD, MPH, RD, 1215 W Cumberland Ave, 229 Jessie Harris Bldg, Knoxville, TN 37996 (

The US Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, the Association of State and Territorial Public Health Nutrition Directors, and The University of Tennessee—all provided funding for primary data collection used in this study. The authors thank Susanne Gregory, Denise Ferris, ASTPHND designees, and state contacts. They also extend gratitude to Dr Eugene Fitzhugh, Dr Charles Hamilton, and Dr Lisa Jahns, faculty at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.