The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the pervasive health inequities that impact every community in our country as well as the inadequacy of our nationwide public health workforce to quickly and forcefully respond to emerging public health threats. The physical and mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with an aging workforce and insufficient rapid pathways into the public health workforce pipeline, have led to a significant deficit in available public health workers in our state.
Although the need for public health services extends to every individual in every community in Connecticut, there are historically underserved communities in our state where new investments in public health service delivery are needed most. As with any other state, community health equity issues and health disparities among Connecticut residents tend to be concentrated in and around urban centers and in order to overcome these historical health disparities in our state, the processes, pathways, and investments for expanding the public health workforce must be done through a diversity and health equity lens. As such, the overarching goal of this project is to achieve an equitable distribution of high-quality and timely public health services, good overall health outcomes, and high measures of wellbeing throughout all communities in Connecticut in order to significantly reduce health disparities and ensure a high level of individual and community resilience in the face of emerging public health challenges. The Connecticut Department of Public Health proposes to achieve this goal through statewide process improvement, modernizing data and service delivery systems, strengthening external partnerships, and leveraging existing investments in workforce development and infrastructure to:
• build and sustain a public health workforce that is sufficiently sized to perform the routine and emerging work of public health in our state,
• develop new pathways into the public health workforce, with a focus on equity and recruitment from historically underserved communities, to increase the capacity to consistently deliver high quality, timely, and culturally appropriate services to those individuals and communities most in need, and
• strengthen state and local health agency infrastructure and processes to ensure that the public health workforce is well-trained, continuously supported, and prepared to respond to new public health threats as they emerge.
Grant funds for this project will be strategically and directly deployed at state and local health departments to hire new and more diverse public health staff, retain the current workforce to preserve institutional knowledge, and provide training and wellness supports for public health workers across the state. Grant funds will also be earmarked for state and local public health agencies as well as non-profit public health service providers for continuing education activities, process improvements around hiring and service delivery, strengthening agency-community partnerships, and modernizing systems for data capture, analysis, and delivery. Finally, significant investments of grant funds will be made with academic partners to develop new Associate’s degree and Certificate programs in public health within the community college system and to ensure that all public health academic degree program instructional content remains up-to-date, that programs align with the current standards for public health professional training (including significant content addressing health equity and mental health), that program training is appropriate for the current needs of public health agencies (including instructional content across all 10 Essential Public Health Services), and that characteristics of enrolled and graduating student cohorts are appropriately diverse and student supports are equitably distributed.