Publisher’s Note: The Force for Health® is proud to partner with the American Public Health Association to celebrate National Public Health Awareness Week April 4 – 10, 2022 with this 7-part series. For more information, visit www.apha.org
The strain of the COVID-19 pandemic and its politicization weakened public health, which was already facing a worker deficit. Public health workers have reported symptoms of mental distress due to burnout, exhaustion and job-related harassment. The pandemic has further highlighted the need for a diverse public health workforce to serve diverse communities. Health workers of color are a smaller proportion of the workforce, but they are more likely to work in lower-wage positions.
Tell Congress you support a loan repayment program for public health workers and other provisions to ensure public health readiness. Sign APHA’s action alert to urge Congress to support strong and sustained public health infrastructure funding. Call on lawmakers to support programs that strengthen the public health workforce, such as those at the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. Advocate in your workplace for paid sick leave, including mental health days. Uphold standards that protect workers during a pandemic, including legal protections for state public health officials. Champion peer support and mental health services in your workplace. Advocate for diversity within the public health workforce and for training that addresses implicit bias and cultural competency.
When health workers feel they’re supported in their work, they have better mental health outcomes. In places where public health authority is strong, communities see lower rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths. Funding a robust public health workforce supports strong programs to protect communities and help people get and stay healthy physically and mentally. Building a more diverse health workforce would help identify and address structural biases within the health care system to improve health outcomes in underserved communities.
Where you are.
Research shows that every robust health system must have skilled, motivated and well-supported health workers. Public health programs need the support and involvement of the communities they serve, so building public trust and confidence is crucial to building healthy communities. A diverse public health workforce that reflects the diversity of the community is better prepared to address health disparities. The public health workforce is essential to addressing the health challenges of our present and future. For example, it’s crucial that public health workers are included in the planning for and mitigation of climate change. Then, the public health workforce can continue to foster and support the health of their community members, wherever they are.