While public health systems, and the professionals in it, have been under resourced and understaffed even before COVID-19, the challenges have intensified during the pandemic. But Public Health Training Centers have important resources for workforce development that will be critical to supporting public health professionals moving forward.
The Northwest Center for Public Health Practice has been a Public Health Training Center (PHTC) since the PHTC funding creation more than 20 years ago, and was recently refunded for another four years. NWCPHP and its fellow regional PHTCs are focusing on training and workforce pipeline needs, with NWCPHP providing specific attention to rural areas and other underserved communities. These efforts are done in deep collaboration with public health professionals in the Pacific Northwest region: Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington state.
“It is essential for NWCPHP to partner and work with public health professionals in our region so we can leverage resources and share lessons learned across various levels of public health,” said Betty Bekemeier, NWCPHP director. “Engagement with public health partners and those who work in prevention is what drives and guides our work together.”
As COVID-19 vaccines became more available and guidelines relaxed, many public health agencies and professionals began rethinking their priorities. Going forward, they are applying lessons from the pandemic and leveraging new funding to modernize their data systems and work with communities in new ways to address health inequities.
While public health agencies have seen an influx of funding for hiring some new staff and temporary workers during the pandemic, the public health system needs to continue in this vein by hiring an estimated 80,000 full-time positions to support ongoing, foundational public health services. All these new people and new skills mean workforce development is now more critical than ever.
Throughout NWCPHP’s existence, its PHTC funding has prioritized supporting capacity building in core public health areas, such as leadership, management, using data, and communications, while also responding to emerging issues and needs, such as contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With renewed PHTC funding, NWCPHP can maintain these professional development opportunities and offer additional support for the workforce in areas like mentoring, building resiliency, and collaborations with primary care partners.
“As a long-standing Public Health Training Center, we support the public health professionals working hard to address issues that are critical and unique to their communities,” said Betty. “Training Centers like NWCPHP were here before the COVID-19 pandemic and we are here going forward to help advance the public’s health.”
Read more about how NWCPHP is supporting public health workforce development in these recent publications.