Jan 19, 2023

A North Star for Where We’re Going

Janice Blake, MPH

Janice Blake is the Senior Director in the Office of Workforce Development at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. She is the Co-Chair of the National Consortium Recruitment and Retention Working Group.

Jeff Oxendine, MBA, MPH

Jeff Oxendine is the Co-Director of the California Health Professions Consortium and the CEO of OXS Consulting. He is the Co-Chair of the National Consortium Recruitment and Retention Working Group.

Through its “Building Robust and Equitable Pathways” Working Group, the National Consortium for Public Health Workforce Development aims to recruit and retain a diverse, skilled workforce that is well-prepared to achieve health equity in their communities. This Working Group has defined its Action Portfolio, which outlines the steps it will take through this spring.

Below, the Working Group’s Co-Chairs, Janice Blake and Jeff Oxendine talk about the Action Portfolio, its creation, and the impact they hope to have.

It’s more critical than ever that we build a robust, diverse governmental public health workforce. Fortunately, increased awareness of this reality has led  — for what may be the first time in our careers — meaningful funding being invested in the public health workforce and infrastructure.

We are committed to ensuring that this attention — and investment — leads to impact. And as we work to recruit and retain a governmental public health workforce, we are also committed to centering health equity. To confront public health emergencies and ongoing health challenges that disproportionately impact low-income and communities of color, we need a workforce with the skills, experience, and support to understand and eliminate the structures that lead to these inequities.

We have what may be a very brief window of opportunity to not only drive policy and systems change, but also to create more connectivity among the people who share our goals. With the National Consortium for Public Health Workforce Development, our hope is to establish a North Star for where we’re going, build a road map for how to get there, connect the key players, and take actions that lead to systems change. It took us many years to get to the situation we’re in and it’s going to require bold new thinking, action — and time — to get out of it.

We are starting with foundational work — conducting an internal and external landscape analysis to understand our Steering Committee and Working Group members’ influence and expertise, as well as what work is already being done in the field. To ensure our work meets public health workforce needs, we’re making use of existing data from the Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey (PH WINS) — and generating new data through our partnership with CWORPH.

We’ve explored innovations in the civil service hiring process — leveraging the great work done by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO)­ to strengthen recruitment for governmental public health jobs.

We’re working with Public Health AmeriCorps leadership to provide recommendations and support to maximize the impact of the significant new dollars being invested in the governmental public health workforce.

We’re developing a partnership among national pipeline programs that are already successfully empowering students and recent graduates to pursue public health careers and connecting them more intentionally to schools and programs of public health and to governmental public health employers.

Through our own work — our “day jobs” — we see the value of the goals and actions we are tackling through the Working Group. As the Senior Director in the Office of Workforce Development at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Janice interacts with public health professionals at all stages of their careers: Students, early-career professionals, current staff, and those nearing retirement. She connects with folks who may not have previously heard of public health and gets them excited about it. She reaches workforce members who seek training and support to progress in their careers to become public health leaders.

As the founder and CEO of Health Career Connection and the co-director of the California Health Professions Consortium, Jeff is particularly interested in creating more effective connections to government employment opportunities for students and public health professionals interested in middle and senior management.

It’s a new moment in time and we have an opportunity to do things differently, but many people have been working on these issues for many years, so we need to be humble and acknowledge we’re building on existing efforts, learning from what’s already been done, and making what is already effective more visible. We want the great ideas, initiatives, and promising solutions that we know are out there to be discovered, highlighted, and leveraged for greater impact. And, as a Consortium, we want to contribute ideas that could lead to the systems change we are all seeking.

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