Workforce Resources for Public Health Informatics
By Rachel Shepherd , specialist , Informatics
The last several years have illuminated longtime workforce challenges in the field of public health : salaries uncompetitive with the private sector ; frustrating bureaucratic delays and red tape ; an impending loss of institutional knowledge as a huge swath of the workforce retires . There is also the fact that the entire system is built around the idea of longevity — people staying in roles for decades — which is inconsistent with today ’ s workforce . However , the COVID-19
response brought new challenges that are contributing to a major exodus of public health workers .
According to the 2021 Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey conducted by the de Beaumont Foundation
and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
( ASTHO ), 32 percent of state and local public health employees are considering leaving their posts within the next year . Nearly half of this group cite stress and burnout from the pandemic — unreasonable working hours and a lack of emotional , financial and public support .
With this exodus comes an urgency to grow , train and revitalize the current workforce . Opportunities like the Career Pathways in Public Health Laboratory Science Program
fulfill an immediate need to develop future public health employees . Placing hundreds of fellows across a variety of disciplines throughout the nation ’ s public health laboratories motivates a new deluge of workers to join and remain in public health , bolstering the field itself with renewed passion , interest and ideas . In addition to these sweeping changes , ongoing calculated and targeted efforts are critical to help develop and support those who remain in public health , the people we cannot afford to lose .
All of this is unfolding against the backdrop of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ’ s Data Modernization Initiative
( DMI ), which emphasizes the need for new and innovative data sharing methods and cross-cutting strategies across laboratories to eliminate silos . The timing of DMI comes as laboratories are reflecting on the pandemic response and can truly take advantage of the opportunity to regroup ; positioning their workforces , resources and infrastructure in ways that are logical , flexible and most effective .
Informatics needs — once commonly viewed as technical and separate from operations — are increasingly understood to be integral and connected to all the inner workings of a laboratory . APHL is working to advance informatics capacity and develop strategies to best support members as they embark on this DMI journey by convening the informatics community to collect , develop and disseminate resources , trainings and ideas .
Public Health Interoperability Training Catalog
Volunteers across several public health organizations recognized the need for a single-source library of existing training resources instead of several stand-alone and disparate collections . They compiled and reviewed hundreds of resources and collectively curated the best into the Public Health Interoperability Training Catalog
, a set of training and education resources , tools , presentations and publications on interoperability . The resources encompass a wide variety of topics including general interoperability and standards , public health informatics , governance , data quality and terminology .
Introductory Informatics e-Courses
These courses provide information on the role and processes of laboratory informatics by following a specimen and its affiliated data as they move throughout the laboratory and beyond . Topics include :
• Roles of various laboratory informatics personnel .
• Data relationships .
• Data quality and standards .
• Pre-analytic , analytic and postanalytic phases .
24 LAB MATTERS Winter 2022