This study assessed the workforce capacity of Nebraska Local Health Departments (LHDs) from the perspective of public health programmatic areas.
Design and Outcomes Measures:
We conducted a mail survey of 21 LHD directors in Nebraska and collected the information on LHD workforce capacity, training, and competency by public health programmatic areas (eg, environmental health, mental health). An FTE shortage index score for each public health programmatic area was calculated to estimate an LHD's current shortage in that area. Spearman correlation analysis was conducted to examine the relationships between LHD capacity, manpower shortage, and staff training and competency.
Our results indicated that a significant proportion of the 18 responding LHDs in Nebraska did not have staff to cover the areas of mental health (66.7%), sexually transmitted diseases (44.4%), occupational safety and injury (38.9%), oral health (27.8%), and health disparities (22.2%). The results also suggest that Nebraska's LHDs experienced the greatest workforce shortages in environmental health (mean shortage index = 0.45), followed by chronic diseases (0.44), health disparities (0.41), and sexually transmitted diseases (0.41).
The identified shortage areas should be a high priority for federal and state policy makers to address through developing appropriate strategies and providing adequate funding for LHD workforce development in Nebraska. Using the public health programmatic area approach to collect workforce data may help fill some gaps in the current efforts of LHD workforce enumeration. Future research is needed to examine the validity and reliability of the workforce measures based on public health programmatic areas.