Between the 2009 Great Recession and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the US state and local governmental public health workforce lost 40,000 jobs. Tens of thousands of workers also left during the pandemic and continue to leave. As governmental health departments are now receiving multimillion-dollar, temporary federal investments to replenish their workforce, this review synthesizes the evidence regarding major challenges that preceded the pandemic and remain now. These include the lack of the field's ability to readily enumerate and define the governmental public health workforce as well as challenges with the recruitment and retention of public health workers. This review finds that many workforce-related challenges identified more than 20 years ago persist in the field today. Thus, it is critical that we look back to be able to then move forward to successfully rebuild the workforce and assure adequate capacity to protect the public's health and respond to public health emergencies.


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