Dramatic public health advances in the 20th century have improved quality of life—an increase in life expectancy, worldwide reduction in infant and child mortality, and the elimination or reduction of numerous life-threatening communicable diseases. These achievements could not have occurred without the research, practice, and service of professionals who comprise the public health workforce. This multidisciplinary workforce includes public health clinicians, occupational and environmental health specialists, epidemiologists, biostatisticians, health program administrators and educators, health economists, planners, and policy analysts. Employed by governmental public health agencies, community-based service organizations, academic and research institutions, private organizations, hospitals, health plans, and medical groups, these professionals function broadly, with activities including health surveillance, protection, promotion, planning, regulation, and health services organization, delivery, and evaluation.1
The world increasingly relies upon the public health workforce to confront emerging communicable diseases (e.g., Ebola and avian influenza), prevent environmental hazards (e.g., protect food security and combat climate change) and chronic disease (e.g., obesity and its myriad health consequences), and assist communities in preparing for disasters such as earthquakes and biological and chemical terrorist attacks. The growing complexity of public health science necessitates that more specialists be trained in additional public health subdisciplines. In the era of globalization, the U.S. public health workforce needs to be adequately prepared to handle health threats that often arise from outside our national boundaries.
Articles for From the Schools of Public Health highlight practice- and academic-based activities at the schools. To submit an article, faculty should send a short abstract (50–100 words) via e-mail to Allison Foster, ASPH Deputy Executive Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The existence of a significant public health workforce shortage in the U.S. is generally acknowledged but difficult to quantify, given numerous challenges including inconsistent enumeration of the existing workforce and no systematic effort to date to assess national needs2–4 (Table 1).