Thoroughly characterizing and continuously monitoring the public health workforce is necessary for ensuring capacity to deliver public health services. A prerequisite for this is to develop a standardized methodology for classifying public health workers, permitting valid comparisons across agencies and over time, which does not exist for the public health workforce. An expert working group, all of whom are authors on this paper, was convened during 2012–2014 to develop a public health workforce taxonomy. The purpose of the taxonomy is to facilitate the systematic characterization of all public health workers while delineating a set of minimum data elements to be used in workforce surveys. The taxonomy will improve the comparability across surveys, assist with estimating duplicate counting of workers, provide a framework for describing the size and composition of the workforce, and address other challenges to workforce enumeration.
The taxonomy consists of 12 axes, with each axis describing a key characteristic of public health workers. Within each axis are multiple categories, and sometimes subcategories, that further define that worker characteristic. The workforce taxonomy axes are occupation, workplace setting, employer, education, licensure, certification, job tasks, program area, public health specialization area, funding source, condition of employment, and demographics. The taxonomy is not intended to serve as a replacement for occupational classifications but rather is a tool for systematically categorizing worker characteristics. The taxonomy will continue to evolve as organizations implement it and recommend ways to improve this tool for more accurate workforce data collection.