Public health professionals urged to
Bethesda, Maryland, March 29, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — More than half of U.S. public health workers are reporting at least one symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new investigation nearly 45,000 employees in state and local public health departments. The study reveals high levels of stress, burnout and intention to leave among public health workers, many of whom have been threatened and harassed by officials and community members who opposed their advice on pandemic mitigation efforts, including masking, social distancing and vaccination. . Read research file.
The Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey (PH WINS) was conducted by the Beaumont Foundation and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) between September 2021 and January 2022 Previously conducted in 2014 and 2017, PH WINS is the only nationally representative survey of state and local public health employees.
KEY SURVEY FINDINGS
PTSD and mental health
The COVID-19 pandemic has been extremely challenging for state and local public health workers who are on the front lines protecting community health amid a deadly and highly politicized public health crisis. The new survey reveals the heavy toll of this pandemic on their mental health.
- More than half of public health workers (56%) reported at least one symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the pandemic.
- One in four people (25%) reported experiencing three or four symptoms, indicating probable PTSD.
- One in five public health workers (22%) rated their mental health as “fair” or “poor”.
Harassment and interference
Throughout the pandemic, the job of public health workers has been made more difficult by community divisions over the need for public health measures, such as masking, to curb the spread of COVD-19. Given their more visible role, public health executives reported higher rates of intimidation, threats, or harassment than professionals at other levels.
- Nearly two in five public health executives (41%) agreed with the statement “I felt intimidated, threatened or harassed by people outside the health department”, compared to 16% of the whole workforce.
- More than three in five executives (59%) agreed with the statement “I felt that my public health expertise was undermined or questioned by people outside the health department”, compared to 29 % of total workforce.
Turnover and intention to leave
The survey finds the pandemic could have lasting effects on public health workers’ desire to stay in their jobs, potentially threatening the health and well-being of communities for years to come.
- Almost a third of the public health workforce (32%) said they plan to leave next year – 5% for retirement and 27% for other reasons.
- Of those who said they planned to leave next year, 39% said the COVID-19 pandemic had made them more likely to leave.
- Almost half of public health workers (44%) said they plan to leave or retire in the next five years.
“Public health has been underfunded for decades, but the pandemic has pushed the workforce to its limits,” said Brian C. Castrucci, DrPH, President and CEO of the Beaumont Foundation. “This is an underreported story affecting the health of communities across the country. These data show that public health personnel are rapidly approaching a breaking point.
Michael Fraser, CEO of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said: “State and territory health agencies have faced many challenges during COVID-19, but the most critical has been mental health. and burnout of public health personnel. Public health professionals and their agencies have supported an unprecedented level of effort in previous public health emergencies. We need to focus on helping our public health workforce recover from the COVID-19 response, while building more resilient systems for the future that can scale up and adapt to this type of emergency.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, public health workers remain committed to their organizations, communities and mission:
- 94% agreed that “the work I do is important”.
- 93% agreed that “I am determined to give my best at work every day”.
PH WINS, which collects information on engagement and satisfaction, intention to leave, training needs and the most pressing public health issues, was previously conducted in 2014 and 2017. The 2021 survey has been distributed to nearly 138,000 state and local public health departments, representing 47 state health agencies, 29 major city agencies, and 262 local health departments. It was completed by 44,732 people, for a response rate of 32.5%.
Read the search file, “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic: increasing stress and burnout in public health.” A full report with detailed findings in other areas will be released this summer.
About the Beaumont Foundation
Founded in 1998, the Beaumont Foundation creates and invests in bold solutions that improve the health of communities across the country. The Foundation advances policy, builds partnerships and strengthens public health to create communities where people can achieve their best possible health. For more information, visit debeaumont.org.
ASTHO is the national, nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, U.S. Territories and Freely Associated States, and Washington, D.C., as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals that these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the primary health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and ensuring excellence in public health practice. For more information, visit astho.org.