ASTHO Launches Resiliency Program to Support Public Health Workforce

February 15, 2022

ARLINGTON, VA—Today, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) announced the launch of a new public health workforce development program, the Public Health, Equity, Resilience, and Opportunity Program (PH-HERO)—aimed to address workforce burnout, resiliency, and morale.

Health officials and their executive teams have recognized the need to address workforce burnout and morale as the COVID-19 response continues, yet most struggle with how to best support the mental health and wellbeing of their teams. The PH-HERO program will create and support a culture of wellbeing and resilience within local, state and territorial public health agencies. The goal is to help reduce public health workforce mental health concerns, aid in overall recruitment and retention efforts, and boost collective morale across the workforce.

The planned components of PH-HERO include:

  • Partnering with key national organizations, including the National Association of County and City Health Officials, as well as experts and leaders in moral injury, organizational change, leadership and workforce development such as the National Council for Mental Wellbeing and the Center for Creative Leadership.
  • Conducting an environmental scan to compile models, approaches, and resources related to organizational wellness and resiliency, and to assess public health agency needs related to addressing burnout and moral injury.
  • Developing a comprehensive package of resources public health leaders can use to address worksite wellbeing, including implementation guides, assessment tools, trainings, and resource guides for individual workers, supervisors, and agency leaders.
  • Providing intensive coaching/technical assistance for up to five agencies to support planning and implementation of a comprehensive and sustainable initiative to improve morale and address moral injury and burnout within their agency.
  • Improve the comprehensive package of resiliency resources based on input and evaluation from pilot sites for further dissemination to public health agencies.

“We’ve been acutely aware of the need to create this program to help support the public health workforce in what has likely been one of the most unprecedented experiences of their career,” says Michael Fraser, ASTHO CEO. “There has been incredible turnover and mental health concerns continue to be on the rise. As a membership organization our mission is to support health officials in advancing the public’s health and well-being. We know this can’t happen if our workforce is overwhelmed and exhausted.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the public health workforce in unprecedented ways. Already understaffed prior to the pandemic, many public health agencies have been operating with limited staffing amid the increased demand on public health services and resources. The pandemic has tested the capacity of the public health workforce, mentally, physically, and emotionally, and has created stresses and strains that are causing staff resignations and a rise in mental health concerns.

This project was made possible with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and Freely Associated States, and Washington, D.C., as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.