Help Wanted: Planning for the 21st Century Public Health Workforce

National forum on the development of the public health workforce

In 1999, the Public Health Institute, Berkeley, Calif., convened a national forum, Development of the 21st Century Public Health Workforce: Leadership, Commitment, and Action and oversaw related publications.

Sponsored by the Public Health Leadership Society — the alumni network of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of California Public Health Leadership Institute — the forum was held on November 15, 1999, in Washington as a preconference to the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association.

The purpose of the forum was to create a sense of national urgency concerning the future adequacy of the public health work force in this country. It was also intended to spur action by local, state, and federal government agencies; in schools of public health; in universities; and among national public health organizations.

Key Results

  • Approximately 175 individuals — Public Health Leadership Society members and representatives of national and federal organizations in the public health field and their education partners — attended the forum.

    In addition to an expert national panel, and a panel addressing "lessons from the field," the forum hosted 20 discussion groups focused on leadership, commitment, and action needed for public health work force development at the federal, national, state, and local levels and within academic institutions.
  • The project produced a report, Development of the Public Health Workforce: A Preliminary Compendium of National Resources, which provided a preliminary overview of national activities designed to assist in the development of the public health work force. The compendium was given to forum attendees and sent to public health leaders across the country.
  • The conference proceedings, Development of the 21st Century Workforce: Leadership, Commitment, and Action — The Crucial Next Steps, described forum materials and attendees and laid out the forum's recommendations for work force development. It includes recommendations for federal, state, and local governments; academia; and national organizations and foundations:
    • "The federal government agencies involved in public health are called upon to commit to a national public health systems approach to work force development."
    • "It was recommended that states take the lead in strategic planning for work force development. Central to the states' success will be a commitment to a truly collaborative process with academia."
    • "Local public health departments must take immediate as well as long-range steps toward preparing their work force."
    • "Apparent throughout the discussions was the need to more fully and formally work with public health academia to achieve the needed work force development results."
    • "Many professional associations, national organizations, and philanthropic foundations concern themselves with public health and support and promote public health services, programs, and activities. Collaboration among these organizations could help focus activities, provide funding for work force development, and reduce potential overlaps or conflicting approaches."

The report was distributed to national organizations and federal agencies concerned with public health work force issues, all state health officers, forum participants, the Public Health Leadership Society leadership, other public health leaders, and registrants for the subsequent National Public Health Leadership Development Network meeting held in April 1999 in St. Louis, Mo.

In January 1999, Public Health Leadership Society staff attended a meeting hosted by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials in Washington to determine resources and administrative structures needed to implement a national work force action plan.


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported the project with a grant of $17,163 between September 1998 to March 1999.

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