Enumeration of the governmental public health workforce, 2014

Am J Prev Med. 2014 Nov;47(5 Suppl 3):S306-13. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2014.07.018. Epub 2014 Oct 16.


Background: Regular assessment of the size and composition of the U.S. public health workforce has been a challenge for decades. Previous enumeration efforts estimated 450,000 public health workers in governmental and voluntary agencies in 2000, and 326,602 governmental public health workers in 2012, although differences in enumeration methodology and the definitions of public health worker between the two make comparisons problematic.

Purpose: To estimate the size of the governmental public health workforce in 14 occupational classifications recommended for categorizing public health workers.

Methods: Six data sources were used to develop enumeration estimates: five for state and local public health workers and one for the federal public health workforce. Statistical adjustments were made to address missing data, overcounting, and duplicate counting of workers across surveys. Data were collected for 2010-2013; analyses were conducted in 2014.

Results: The multiple data sources yielded an estimate of 290,988 (range=231,464-341,053) public health workers in governmental agencies, 50%, 30%, and 20% of whom provide services in local, state, and federal public health settings, respectively. Administrative or clerical personnel (19%) represent the largest group of workers, followed by public health nurses (16%); environmental health workers (8%); public health managers (6%); and laboratory workers (5%).

Conclusions: Using multiple data sources for public health workforce enumeration potentially improves accuracy of estimates but also adds methodologic complexity. Improvement of data sources and development of a standardized study methodology is needed for continuous monitoring of public health workforce size and composition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Employment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Workforce / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Public Health*
  • United States
  • United States Government Agencies / statistics & numerical data*