Public Health Workers Are Tired and Leaving Their Jobs in Droves, And I Don’t Blame Them

Toxic workplaces exist within public health, and public health workers also get abuse from members of the public who do not believe in public health interventions. This is leading to a new exodus of public health workers, and I’m not surprised.

René F. Najera, MPH, DrPH

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“I’m out,” he seemed to say. (Photo by Romain V on Unsplash)

A quick summary of what you’re about to read, if you don’t have a lot of time:

This article discusses the findings of a survey of public health workers in the United States, which found that many plan to leave their jobs or retire. The pandemic has put a strain on public health workers, who have been working long hours for many months. The article highlights the need for policymakers to take action to address these issues and support the public health workforce, including improving working conditions, increasing salaries, providing funding for public health initiatives, and creating a more supportive and equitable work environment.

Okay, so you do have time… Read on!

To be honest, I was not surprised when I read this article in Health Affairs a few weeks ago. In it, the authors summarize the findings of a survey conducted in 2017 and 2021 of public health workers. In 2017, the workers were asked about their intent to leave the profession or retire, and they were asked the same question again in 2021. According to the authors:

“If separation trends continue, by 2025 this would represent more than 100,000 staff leaving their organizations, or as much as half of the governmental public health workforce in total. Given the likelihood of increasing outbreaks and future global pandemics, strategies to improve recruitment and retention must be prioritized.”

And that’s just the abstract section. The rest of the article is a series of warnings, and “I told you so,” about the state of the public health workforce in the United States.

Interestingly, this was not the first time such an exodus was declared. Back in 2010, another warning was given over the pressure…

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René F. Najera, MPH, DrPH

DrPH in Epidemiology. Associate/JHBSPH. Adjunct/GMU. Epidemiologist. Father. Husband. (He/Him/His/El)