Prioritizing the Public Health Workforce in Canada: Understanding Psychological Health and Intention to Leave During COVID-19

Belita, Emily | $223,190

Ontario McMaster University 2022 CIHR Operating Grant

The COVID‑19 pandemic has revealed continued underinvestment and limited attention paid to the public health workforce in Canada. The pandemic has placed increased strain on an already burdened public health workforce. Public health staff are overwhelmed with demands of delivering vaccination programs and coordinating contact/case management in addition to attempting to deliver some core public health programs and services. There is a great amount of literature on the serious mental health impacts of the pandemic and ‘intention to leave’ among frontline health care workers in hospital settings. The effects of the pandemic on mental health and ‘intention to leave’ among the public health workforce in Canada however, are unknown. Identifying the extent of mental health and intention to leave impacts, who is most affected, and what factors influence these outcomes can help shape public health workforce planning, recruitment, and retention efforts needed for pandemic recovery in Canada. Additionally, understanding which organizational interventions are most effective in supporting mental health among at-risk groups in specific practice settings can support organizational planning and target resources toward those in most need for greater impact. The overall goal of this project is to gain an understanding about the nature and extent of mental health (burnout, anxiety, depression) and ‘intention to leave’ impacts on the public health workforce in Canada during COVID-19, which individual or work-related factors influence these outcomes, and what effective organizational interventions can promote and support the mental health of the public health workforce. We will work with senior public health decision-makers and public health organizations across Canada to ensure project relevance and feasibility and to support the timely dissemination of results to public health stakeholders for increased uptake.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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