Epidemiologists working in state health agency central offices (SHA-CO) are key professionals working to monitor population health indicators. Assessing training needs to identify gaps is critical to ensuring a competent public health workforce.
The objective of this research was to identify training needs of SHA-CO epidemiologists and their awareness of emerging areas of public health practice (EAoP) using data from the 2017 Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey (PH WINS).
SHA-CO epidemiologists were surveyed in fall 2017 using a Web-based tool. Balanced repeated replication weights were used to account for complex sample design. Differences in responses by tenure, education level, and supervisory status were assessed using multinomial logistic regression.
Forty-seven state health agencies.
Permanently employed SHA-CO epidemiologists.
Main Outcome Measures:
Training needs were identified by classifying skill gaps as those skills that participants self-reported as high relevance to day-to-day work but self-rated as having low proficiency. Awareness of EAoP was self-reported.
Systems and strategic thinking and budget and financial management were the areas with the greatest training needs. For most skill domains, fewer participants reported skill gaps with increasing years of public health work experience. Participants with 16 or more years of work experience were less likely to be motivated by most training motivators listed by epidemiologists with 5 or fewer years of experience. The EAoP participants reported greatest awareness of evidence-based public health practice (67%), and the EAoP they reported hearing least about was Health in All Policies (14%).
Stratified analyses by tenure identified important differences in training needs and motivators that employers can use to customize workforce development strategies. SHA-CO epidemiologists reported varying amounts of awareness of EAoP. Specialized training approaches may contribute to improved employee engagement and reduce skill gaps among SHA-CO epidemiologists.