Building the Public Health Informatics Workforce of the Future

Sherilyn Pruitt and Maggie Wanis | May 17, 2022

As we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic as a nation, it has been made clear that we are also in the midst of a critical public health workforce shortage. The pandemic has highlighted key areas for improving the nation’s public health infrastructure and increasing the number of highly trained public health informatics and technology professionals. In January 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration released an Executive Order to create a unified public health workforce strategy that will expand and build capacity so we can better respond to future pandemics and biological threats. In September 2021, ONC launched the ONC Public Health Informatics & Technology Workforce Development Program (PHIT Workforce Program) to help address these issues.

ONC selected ten awardees from across the nation that represent a mix of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions. Together, these awardees will collectively train more than 4,000 individuals in public health informatics and technology over a period of four years. The PHIT Workforce Program supports a range of activities across institutions, from supporting completely new programs to expanding existing programs including certificate, undergraduate, and graduate programs.

ONC recognizes that developing a workforce with competencies in public health informatics and technology is critical. Knowledge about data such as laboratory results, bed availability, and electronic health information at the right place and at the right time are essential during a pandemic. A diverse and information technology-savvy public health workforce can contribute to more equitable public health activities, with the potential to yield better health outcomes.

PHIT Progress to Date

While we are only six months into the PHIT Workforce Program we are excited to share some strong initial progress made by our awardees. They are building survey and assessment tools to better understand the competencies needed for a variety of public health informatics roles; bringing a diverse set of public and private employers to the table to develop innovative strategies to recruit students and create internship opportunities; and are making strides to move their curricula through the formal accreditation processes within their institutions and external boards.

We are grateful for the dedication of the awardees, and their consortium partners, who are working to bring relevant curricula to their students. Some highlights include:

  • The University of Texas is developing bootcamp-style training for their undergraduate students.
  • The University of Minnesota, leveraging relationships established prior to the award, is partnering with universities in Florida and Georgia to implement their curriculum across both undergraduate and graduate programs.
  • Jackson State University is working on implementing programs that develop the pipeline of talent from high school to college.
  • California State University at Long Beach is developing a multi-pronged approach to prepare diverse students to enter the PHIT workforce, specifically focusing on gaps identified by the California Department of Public Health.

These are just a few examples, but you can learn more about the innovative strategies and programs on ONC’s PHIT Workforce Development Program page.

ONC Public Health Informatics and Technology Workforce Development Program Awardees

This map includes the 10 PHIT Workforce Development Programs award recipients.