— New analysis shows local public health workers who experienced harassment during the COVID-19 pandemic had a higher risk of intending to resign from their local health departments than those not experiencing harassment, exacerbating staffing shortages —
Washington, DC, November 22, 2022 — Almost one in six local health department employees experienced harassment during the COVID-19 pandemic because of their role as a public health professional, according to a new peer-reviewed analysis by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). Staff loss across local health departments has been an acute problem during the pandemic, and these experiences of harassment further exacerbate it. NACCHO researchers underscored that local public health workers who experienced harassment had greater intentions to resign from their current local health department, with many exiting the public health field altogether. In addition, they report having poorer mental and emotional health than those not experiencing harassment.
These findings add to growing literature about the experiences of public health workers during the pandemic. One recent study found 5% of local health departments experienced leadership turnover due to political conflict during the first year of the pandemic, while another highlights that 56% of public health workers reported at least one symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the pandemic.
“Our new analysis highlights the critical impacts that responding to a pandemic has on a severely hampered U.S. public health infrastructure,” said NACCHO’s Chief Executive Officer Lori Tremmel Freeman. “Namely, decisions to leave the local health department workforce affect the quality of critical public health services and the next generation of public health leaders. As new threats emerge in public health and fester into national emergencies, we must not only respond to harassment with protections and mental health support, but also be proactive in protecting our public health workers from experiencing harassment and violence at all.”
Read the full article, The Role of Harassment in the Mental Well-Being of Local Public Health Professionals and Its Relationship With an Intent to Leave Their Organization During the COVID-19 Pandemic, here.
The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) represents the nation’s nearly 3,000 local health departments. These city, county, metropolitan, district, and tribal departments work every day to protect and promote health and well-being for all people in their communities. For more information about NACCHO, please visit www.naccho.org.