Press Room

New Report on the Mental Health Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Public Health Workers Presents Concerning Data on Workforce Well-Being

ARLINGTON, VA (June 25, 2021)—Michael Fraser, chief executive officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), issued the following statement following the release of CDC’s MMWR report on the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the public health workforce.

"According to the CDC study released today, more than half of public health workers have experienced a mental health condition this year. These findings are extremely concerning and illustrate the impact of the COVID-19 response on individuals serving on the frontlines of pandemic response. The report is a call to redouble our local, state, and national efforts to address the psychological toll of the pandemic for public health workers, particularly as public health agencies begin to step down emergency operations and move to regular operations. Some of the actions agency leaders can take include staffing changes to reduce workloads; training for supervisors; promoting a positive, healthy work environment; and normalize resilience and coping strategies that include help-seeking for mental health concerns.

For years, public health advocates have called for increased funding for public health programs to help build the capacity of our public health system and invest in surge capacity—which includes adding staff to public health agencies. During COVID-19, few jurisdictions had an adequate number of public health responders and existing workers were called on to increase the hours they worked to meet the demand for public health services—leading to stress, anxiety, and burnout, which is similar to what has been reported by healthcare workers in clinical care settings. New investments in the American Rescue Plan Act will finally allow governmental public health agencies and their partners to add the capacity needed to recover from COVID-19, and prepare for and respond to future health threats. This can also help mitigate some of the conditions that may have led to the alarming number of public health workers who report a mental health condition since COVID-19 began.

As public health leaders identify changes for the future, ASTHO will continue to partner with our members to strengthen organizational resilience and supports – during and after public health emergencies to help recover and reset for the future. While we cannot give back the countless hours public health workers spent on the COVID-19 response, we can commit to supporting our public health heroes and encourage their use of mental health services and supports to help them heal along with those they are helping everyday."

For more information view ASTHO's blog post summarizing the findings from the CDC report.

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ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and Freely Associated States, and the District of Columbia, as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.