Preventing Job Burnout: Could Workplace Support Protect Maternal and Child Health Professionals Who Are Doing Public Health Equity Work?

Carol Gilbert, Marilyn Johnson, Bibhusha Karki, Kiara Lyons, Melissa Tibbits, Drissa Toure, Aislinn C. Rookwood, Chad Abresch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To assess the potential of workplace support to protect public health equity workers against job burnout and to identify key workplace support components. Description: This mixed-methods, explanatory sequential study analyzed survey and interview data collected between August 2020 and June 2021. Participants included governmental and non-governmental public health employees whose programs largely focus on Maternal and Child Health populations and who reported that their jobs involved working to reduce health inequities (“equity work”). Regression analysis tested the effect of emotional labor on job burnout, and whether workplace support modified that effect. Qualitative analysis of interview transcripts explored possible components of needed workplace support. Assessment: Emotional labor was positively associated with job burnout (p <.001), and there was a significant negative interaction between emotional labor and workplace support, meaning workplace support appeared to reduce the effect of emotional labor on burnout (p =.036). Qualitative analysis identified four support components: peer-to-peer mentoring connections, workplace accommodations, engaged and empathetic supervision, and mental health resources. Conclusion: Workplace support is associated with reduced job burnout for public health equity workers, especially those whose jobs involve high levels of emotional labor. Few public health employers are providing needed emotional supports for their equity workers, but certain supports appear to be helpful in reducing job burnout.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-30
Number of pages7
JournalMaternal and child health journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

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© The Author(s) 2023.


  • Emotional labor
  • Employer
  • Equity
  • Job burnout
  • Public Health Department
  • Workplace support


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