Determinants of workplace perceptions among federal, state, and local public health staff in the US, 2014 to 2017

Jonathon P. Leider, Katie Sellers, Jessica Owens-Young, Grace Guerrero-Ramirez, Kyle Bogaert, Moriah Gendelman, Brian C. Castrucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: The governmental public health workforce in the United States comprises almost 300,000 staff at federal, state, and local levels. The workforce is poised for generational change, experiencing significant levels of retirement. However, intent to leave for other reasons is also substantial, and diversity is lacking in the workforce.

METHODS: Workforce perception data from 76,000 staff from Health and Human Services (HHS) including 14,000 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were analyzed across 2014 and 2017. Additionally, data from 32,000 state and local health department staff in 46 agencies reporting in both years. Estimates were constructed accounting for survey design and non-response.

RESULTS: In 2017, women made up 43% of the total US government workforce and 33% of supervisors or higher, compared to 73 and 68% generally in State Health Agencies (p < .0001); and 62% vs 52% in HHS (p < .0001). Among state staff, intent to leave increased from 22 to 31% (p < .0001), but fell in 2017 from 33 to 28% for HHS (p < .0001). Correlates of intent to leave included low job satisfaction, pay satisfaction, and agency type. Federal entities saw the highest proportion respondents that indicated they would recommend their organization as a good place to work.

CONCLUSIONS: While intent to leave fell at federal agencies from 2014 to 2017, it increased among staff in state and local health departments. Additionally, while public health is more diverse than the US government overall, significant underrepresentation is observed in supervisory positions for staff of color, especially women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1654
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Intent to leave
  • Job satisfaction
  • Public health workforce
  • Public health workforce interests and needs survey
  • Workplace perceptions
  • Public Health
  • United States
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Workplace
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Female
  • Perception
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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