Everyone talks tough about their job status. Even individuals who are largely satisfied with the state of their professional union can’t help but indulge in some “if [employer name] does this, I am so outta here” bluster from time to time.

An exception to this maxim, per a study published in the March edition of Health Affairs, are state and local public health employees. After crunching data from the 2017 and 2021 iterations of the Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey, the study authors concluded that nearly half of all workers in state and local public health agencies left their jobs between 2017 and 2021.

The data portend an even more profound shortfall in years to come. If the departures continue at their current pace, the public health apparatus will have shed more than 100,000 workers by 2025. That’s more than 50% of the overall governmental public health workforce.

Any number of factors may have prompted the exodus, post-pandemic burnout and low pay among them. But if there were ever a time for concerted recruitment and retention efforts, it’s now.

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