75,000 Person Hours of Public Health Capacity Building in Minnesota and Other Year 1 MNPHC Program Outcomes

This entry is part 40 of 40 in the series Wide World of Public Health Systems

Last year, we (ServeMinnesota, Ampact, and University of Minnesota School of Public Health) partnered to develop and launch Minnesota Public Health Corps (MNPHC) and published a JPHMP blog post about its launch. The first year of the program wrapped up in July and here we present some of our year one successes and challenges, as well as changes and goals for program year two.

The overall goal of MNPHC, an AmeriCorps program, is to station its members as Public Health Project Coordinators in health departments to build the capacity of governmental public health across Minnesota. Additionally, MNPHC aims to create the next generation of public health leaders by providing its members with public health-specific trainings and experiences that introduce them to the field and give them key qualifications when applying for jobs. This double aim is critical. Many health departments backlogged numerous projects due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and, according to PH WINS their future capacity is threatened with about 40% of public health employees planning or considering leaving their current positions and a low percentage of young employees entering the field (only 2% of the workforce is aged 19 to 25).

In year one of MNPHC, members worked to provide assistance to their agencies in five categories: data collection and planning, data analysis and interpretation, internal process improvement, community engagement and communications, and COVID-related activities. A total of 61 members were placed across 36 counties (41% of MN counties; at least 1 site in each region). Members collectively provided about 75,000 person hours of capacity building within their agencies. Host sites included local county public health agencies, city public health departments, community health boards, the state association of county and city health officials, and the state health department.

Site level results

Members spent most of their time engaged in either community engagement and communications (33% for urban sites and 21% for rural sites) or data collection and planning (25% for urban sites and 29% for rural sites). Additionally, the average capacity score (0 to 10 with 10 being high) increased for all areas except COVID-related activities (though this is likely due to the pandemic officially ending mid-service term). Community engagement and communications and data collection and planning capacity levels increased the most (4.97 to 7.06 and 5.18 to 6.50, respectively). When asked how members increased agency capacity, 83% of sites agreed or strongly agreed that their members helped them extend reach to new communities, 84% agreed or strongly agreed that members helped them increase their organization’s efficiency, and 89% agreed or strongly agreed that their members enabled more engagement with community members or other stakeholders. Additionally, many of the agencies served by MNPHC are Public Health Infrastructure Grant recipients and members’ projects were also able to help awardees work towards their grant goals.

Member level results

The members who served in year 1 were very diverse, with 62% aged 18 to 24 years and 27% aged 25 to 34 years, 32% identifying as non-white, and 19% identifying as non-female. This cohorts’ demographics were more diverse than the current workforce in Minnesota (according to 2021 PH WINS), which has only 1% aged 18 to 24 years, 18% aged 25 to 34 years, 14% identifying as non-white, and 16% identifying as non-female. Additionally, a large majority of the members expressed an interest in pursuing a public health career, with almost 50% having obtained or seeing public health employment and about 15% returning for a second year of service. These data indicate clear evidence that MNPHC is creating pathways into public health for members.  

The future of MNPHC

MNPHC cohorts begin in August, October, and January. For year two, 91 members were placed for the August cohort with 57 sites across 55 counties (65% of MN counties). Our goal for this year is to place 150 members, which would be a total of 255,000 person hours of capacity building in the Minnesota governmental public health system. Additionally, in an effort to align with the 2022 cost and capacity assessment of the Minnesota governmental public health system conducted by Center for Public Health Systems at University of Minnesota, member and site data (eg, project plan goals, member activities, and hours) are being collected in the Foundational Public Health Responsibilities (FPHR) model. This shift in data collection will allow us to better understand program data in comparison with identified capacity needs. For example, the 2022 assessment identified health equity and assessment and planning as the two areas with the lowest capacity across the state and thus in need of additional support. Subsequently, so far this year, 54% of MNPHC projects are in health equity and 61% are in assessment and planning. While many of these areas may take time to demonstrate any substantial and measurable increases on a state-wide level, MNPHC is one program working to make a difference.

Chelsey Kirkland, PhD, MPH, CHW (she/her) is a researcher within the Center for Public Health Systems at University of Minnesota, School of Public. During her time there, she has collaborated on numerous nation-wide, mixed-methods research projects working to support and build-up the public health workforce. Her background is in a variety of public health issues including health equity, health disparities, social determinants of health, community health workers, and physical activity. When not working, she enjoys being outside with her family and dog. Her favorite activities include running, water-skiing, and playing violin.

Hank Stabler, PhD, is a postdoctoral research student with the UMN Center for Public Health Systems with experience in program evaluation, policy analysis, and mixed methods research. Dr. Stabler’s research interests relate to hospital-community relationships and multisectoral collaboration. He holds a PhD from the University of Minnesota’s Health Services Research, Policy, & Administration program with a focus on Health Policy, and an MPH from the University of Michigan.

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