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Am J Prev Med. 2012 Jan;42(1):76-80. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2011.08.021.

Challenges to recruitment and retention of the state health department epidemiology workforce.

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  • 1Center of Excellence in Public Health Workforce Studies, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-2029, USA.



With nearly one quarter of the combined governmental public health workforce eligible for retirement within the next few years, recruitment and retention of workers is a growing concern. Epidemiology has been identified as a potential workforce shortage area in state health departments.


Understanding strategies for recruiting and retaining epidemiologists may help health departments stabilize their epidemiology workforce. The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists conducted a survey, the Epidemiology Capacity Assessment (ECA), of state health departments to identify recruitment and retention factors.


The ECA was distributed to 50 states, the District of Columbia (DC), and four U.S. territories in 2009. The 50 states and DC are included in this analysis. The State Epidemiologist completed the organizational-level assessment; health department epidemiologists completed an individual-level assessment. Data were analyzed in 2010.


All states responded to the ECA, as did 1544 epidemiologists. Seventeen percent of epidemiologists reported intent to retire or change careers in the next 5 years. Ninety percent of states and DC identified state and local government websites, schools of public health, and professional organizations as the most useful recruitment tools. Top recruitment barriers included salary scale, hiring freezes, and ability to offer competitive pay; lack of promotion opportunities and merit raise restrictions were main retention barriers.


Although the proportion of state health department epidemiologists intending to retire or change careers during the next 5 years is lower than the estimate for the total state public health workforce, important recruitment and retention barriers for the employees exist.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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