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Perception of Workforce Skills Needed Among Public Health Professionals in Local Health Departments: Staff Versus Top Executives

Ye, Jiali PhD; Leep, Carolyn MS, MPH; Robin, Nathalie MPH; Newman, Sarah MPH

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: November/December 2015 - Volume 21 - Issue - p S151–S158
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000299
Section 4: Skills and Training

Objectives: To examine how top executives and staff from local health departments (LHDs) perceive the importance of various types of workforce skills, and to assess the differences in the perception of the importance of these workforce skills between these 2 groups and among LHDs serving different-sized jurisdictions.

Design: Data for this study were drawn from the 2014 Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey (PH WINS) and the 2015 Forces of Change survey. While PH WINS collected data from LHD staff, the Forces of Change survey was administered to LHD top executives. Ratings of perceived importance of workforce skills from LHD staff and top executives were compared.

Results: Overall, LHD workers at all levels believe that core competencies are important for their jobs. The perceived importance of these skills differed somewhat across supervisory level (nonsupervisory staff vs supervisory staff vs top executives). Communication was rated as one of the most important skills by all groups. For top executives, ensuring that programs are managed within budget constraints was the most important skill for their employees. However, this skill was rated much lower among staff. Policy development skills were rated to be of lowest importance by LHD leaders and staff.

Conclusions: LHD leaders and staff agree on the relative importance of some competencies, although they also show some clear differences in the relative importance that they place on other competencies. It is essential to strengthen the communication between public health leaders and staff regarding the importance of workforce skills. More investigation is needed to assess whether and how gaps in staff competencies are addressed in the workforce development strategies.

This study examines perception of workforce skills needed among public health professionals (staff vs top executives) in local health departments.

National Association of County & City Health Officials, Washington, District of Columbia.

Correspondence: Jiali Ye, PhD, Research & Evaluation, National Association of County & City Health Officials, 1100 11th St, NW, Seventh Floor, Washington, DC 20036 (

The Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey was funded by the de Beaumont Foundation and conducted by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the de Beaumont Foundation. The Forces of Change survey was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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