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An Obstacle to Public Health Workforce Development: General Absence of Public Health Occupational Classifications in the US Department of Labor's Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system

Arthur E. Cohen, JD, MPH, self-employed - Organization: SANIPLAN, 6106 Westcliff Drive, Baltimore, MD 21209-3536, (410) 664-1192, artc12@comcast.net

Public Health, with a US workforce of 484,000 people, is almost entirely invisible in the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in the US Department of Labor. This is unfortunate given current efforts to replenish and expand the public health workforce. Specifically: The Classification's "SOC Major Groups" do not include public health. In SOC parlance, it is not even a "minor group" or a "broad occupation." Public health is not mentioned under either "Health Care Practitioners and Technical Occupations" or "Healthcare Support Occupations." Under "Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations", there is only a listing for "Epidemiologists" who are considered "medical scientists" and "life scientists." Under "Community and Social Services Occupations", there is a listing for "Medical and Public Health Social Workers," with no description of unique public health responsibilities. "Health Educators" does not mention public health. Teachers of “courses in public health” are placed under the rubric "Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary," grouped with teachers of dentistry, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, therapy, and lab technology. Similarly, managers of “public health agencies” are placed under the rubric "Medical and Health Services Managers," and grouped with managers of hospitals, clinics, and managed care organizations. Physicians and nurses are listed only in terms of health care, not public health roles. This lack of occupational data for public health can complicate recruiting and training people for a public health career. The BLS is currently revising the SOC (last completed in 2000), and has invited suggestions for revisions.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Workforce, Training

Related Web page: www.bls.gov/soc/soc_majo.htm

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Not Answered

Improving the Health Workforce: Posters

The 134th Annual Meeting & Exposition (November 4-8, 2006) of APHA