State’s aging public health workforce identifies training gaps, WVU professors find

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia’s public health workforce is an aging population with a strong desire for additional training, according to a West Virginia University Department of Community Medicine report.

Public health employees usually work in county health departments and are employed by the county or state. The report, commissioned by the state Department of Health and Human Resources, sought to better understand the state’s training needs and to determine gaps in both workforce and in training.

Community Medicine faculty members Ian Rockett, Ph.D., Henry Taylor, M.D., and Bethany McCunn analyzed public health employee data from the 2004 West Virginia Public Health Workforce Development Survey. 

The researchers analyzed data from more than 1,100 of the 1,750 public health employees working in the state’s 49 health departments. Almost 80 percent of West Virginia’s public health workforce is female.

“We found large training gaps in the public health realm, and West Virginia University has an interest in this because we do a lot of public health training,” Rocket said.

The findings were published in “Accounting for Population Health: A Profile of West Virginia’s Public Health Workforce and Its Training Needs.” 

Other findings:

- Eighty percent of the workforce is age 35 and older, with almost 60 percent being at least 45 years old.

- Fifty percent of the employees have been in the workforce for at least 10 years

- Forty-five percent of the workforce holds a bachelor’s degree or higher

- Nursing employees have the highest rate of post-secondary degrees (25 percent)

- West Virginia has an older workforce; almost 60 percent of the workers are 45 and older

“Knowing the needs of the workforce can help the state to develop or improve upon training programs,” Rockett said.  

- WVU -

For more information:
Cassie Waugh, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087
cw: 05-09-08

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