Why do people work in public health? Exploring recruitment and retention among public health workers

Valerie A. Yeager, Janna M. Wisniewski, Kathleen Amos, Ron Bialek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Context: The public health workforce is critical to the functioning of the public health system and protection of the population's health. Ensuring a sufficient workforce depends on effectively recruiting and retaining workers. Objective: This study examines factors influencing decisions to take and remain in jobs within public health, particularly for workers employed in governmental public health. Design: This cross-sectional study employed a secondary data set from a 2010 national survey of US public health workers. Participants: Survey respondents were included in this study if they responded to at least 1 survey item related to recruitment and retention. A total of 10 859 survey responses fit this criterion. Main Outcome Measures: Data examined demographics of public health workers and factors that influenced decisions to take jobs in and remain in public health. Results: Job security (β = 0.42; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.28-0.56) and competitive benefits (β = 0.49; 95% CI, 0.28-0.70) were significantly and positively associated with governmental employees' decisions to take positions with their current employers compared with public health workers employed by other types of organizations. The same finding held with regard to retention: Job security (β = 0.40; 95% CI, 0.23-0.57) and competitive benefits (β = 0.53; 95% CI, 0.24-0.83). Two personal factors, personal commitment to public service (β = 0.30; 95% CI, 0.17-0.42) and wanted a job in the public health field (β = 0.44; 95% CI, 0.18-0.69), were significantly and positively related to governmental employees deciding to remain with their current employers. Conclusions: It is important to recognize the value of competitive benefits for both current and potential employees. Public health agencies should maintain these if possible and make the value of these benefits known to policy makers or other agencies setting these benefit policies. Job security associated with governmental public health jobs also appears to offer public health an advantage in recruiting and retaining employees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)559-566
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Public Health Management and Practice
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Organizational environment
  • Recruitment
  • Retention
  • Workforce

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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