The Center for Public Health Systems (CPHS) supports research priorities of its partners, emphasizing projects that assess public health impact and strengthen public health systems and workforce. For a full list of publications and presentations visit our ResearchGate Lab.


CPHS is committed to increasing knowledge and understanding of critical issues impacting the current and future public health workforce. This includes finding ways to assist public health entities in applying new knowledge in workforce research to their workforce planning.

Areas of workforce research for the Center include:

  • Using data to better understand hiring and retention of public health staff;
  • Tracking changes in educational attainment of public health workforce; and
  • Identifying areas of growth and strength amongst public health staff.

Public Health Systems and Services

CPHS is committed to increasing knowledge and understanding of critical issues that impact public health systems and services. This includes finding ways to assist public health entities at the state,  regional, and local levels to apply current and emerging research to their organizations.

Areas of study in public health systems and services research for the Center include:

  • Understanding the impact of public health funding on health outcomes;
  • Quantifying the value of public health expenditures on community health; and
  • Applying defined sets of public health services and public health modernization activities, such as the 21st Century Initiative and Foundational Public Health Services.


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Active Projects

Established in 2022, C WORPH is a research consortium that aims to better understand the current state of the U.S. public health workforce and inform workforce development practices. The Consortium is led by CPHS and includes researchers at Columbia University, Indiana University, Johns Hopkins University, East Tennessee State University, and University of Washington. C WORPH is dual-funded by the HRSA and CDC to conduct approximately 8-10 research studies each year focused on the public health workforce.

Please visit The Consortium for Workforce Research in Public Health (CWORPH) website to learn more.

Data use agreements with the Office of Vital Records at the Minnesota Department of Health allows us access to digitized death certificate records in Minnesota from 2011 to present. Ongoing projects use this data to examine excess mortality during the pandemic, burden of the pandemic on different racial and occupational groups and the quality of the causes of death listed on the death certificates.

Data use agreements with GovSpend, a nationally recognized technology company that aggregates purchase order data from local, state and federal governmental agencies allows us access to quality government purchase data. We are currently using this data to investigate the rise of generic brands of PPE during the pandemic and the prices that local health agencies paid to procure PPE.

The Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) is contracting with CPHS to obtain operational definitions for the national Foundational Public Health Services (FPHS) model and a plain-language, user-friendly FPHS Capacity and Costing Tool. CPHS will work with PHAB and the 21st Century Learning Community to obtain broad feedback for the definitions and tool for future capacity and costing assessments.

CPHS staff are conducting a systematic review of the literature to understand the size and composition of the governmental public health workforce and how the structure of the workforce has evolved over time from 2011 to 2021. The review aims to answer the following research question and sub-questions:

  • How has literature published between 2011 and 2021 described the structural characteristics of the U.S. public health workforce?
    • How large is the U.S. public health workforce?
    • How diverse is the U.S. public health workforce in regards to personal demographic characteristics?
    • How diverse is the U.S. public health workforce in regards to professional classifications and capabilities?

Our review focuses on the governmental U.S. public health workforce including generalists and specialists involved in public health through their work, describing workers potentially by occupation, organization, program area, jurisdictional characteristics, and governance. Knowing and understanding the size of the workforce, who makes up the workforce, and how the workforce is distributed will support the development of policies and investments to support the capacity of the public health workforce. By understanding the structural characteristics of the public health workforce we can better promote and protect health at the population level.

Past Projects

In February 2021, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) launched the COVID-19 Vaccine Connector to help Minnesotans find out where, when, and how they could get a COVID-19 vaccination. While the connector sought to ensure access to the COVID-19 vaccines to all Minnesotans, the Minnesota Governor’s Office did explicitly state, “The Vaccine Connector will also improve the ability of communities of color to access the vaccine”. This project examined whether the connector achieved the above-stated equity goals, specifically,  whether the connector reached Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities and whether the connector reached communities with lower socioeconomic status and rural Minnesotans.

Public health workforce has changed drastically in the past decade with even more shifts resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. CPHS staff collaborated with other field experts on an article for Annual Review of Public Health that captures the most pertinent events, changes, and challenges facing the public health workforce over the past 10 years. This manuscript will be published in early 2023.

The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) collaborated with CPHS staff on an article analyzing trends in undergraduate public health degree conferrals and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This manuscript will be published in early 2023.

As a component of applications for initial accreditation or re-accreditation, health departments around the nation have submitted workforce development plans (WDPs) to the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB). PHAB has made these WDPs available to researchers at CPHS and the University of Indiana’s Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health. Researchers qualitatively coded these plans to identify competency frameworks in use and any gaps, intended activities, or strategic approaches related to topics in workforce development, such as recruitment diversity, leadership succession planning, and staff satisfaction assessment. Further analysis of the coded plans may illuminate commonalities across WDPs, highlight innovative practices, and work toward defining what makes a “high-quality” WDP.

Previously, Dr. Leider provided technical expertise to a partnership between the Public Health National Center for Innovations (PHNCI) and the de Beaumont Foundation that aimed to establish the minimum full-time equivalents (FTEs) necessary for the development of infrastructure and provision of minimum services. Researchers used expenditure and staffing data for a sample of local and state health departments to develop a national estimate for current FTEs and needed FTEs for state and local health departments to provide basic foundational public health services.

CPHS staff provided technical expertise to a continuation of the partnership between PHNCI and the de Beaumont Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Center for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support (CSTLTS). This second phase of work includes additional data collection, analysis, and modeling to guide the development of a public health workforce calculator to aid health departments in determining the number and type of staff necessary to provide sufficient levels of public health services.

Health equity is commonly identified as an essential component of public health, yet the current practices being used to achieve health equity are unclear. CPHS staff are conducting a systematic review to assess what constitutes health equity in the realm of governmental public health and what health equity practices U.S. health departments currently employ. Based on the findings, UMN will develop a broad report for dissemination, along with 1-2 webinars and a draft of a manuscript for publication.

The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) is contracting with CPHS to identify their current membership denominator, generate a new geographic information system (GIS) shapefile for mapping, and analyze their profile data. Based on the findings, CPHS will draft a report highlighting the key findings of NACCHO’s Profile survey.

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