Portsmouth Health Department Aligns Staff Resources with Agency Priorities


Portsmouth Health District developed a process to assess whether staff time and effort were aligned with the agency’s goals and initiatives.

A closeup of a map of Virginia, with a pin marking the city of Portsmouth

April 27, 2021

The Portsmouth Health District (PHD), like many public health agencies, must balance competing priorities with limited funding to protect the health of its residents, and the ongoing pandemic stretches PHD’s capacity to do more with less. In July 2020, PHD’s Population Health Team undertook an assessment of how staff and financial resources were aligned with changing agency priorities to ensure that staff time was being spent on areas of greatest need, without placing undue burden on the same staff members as the pandemic shifted priorities.

Analyzing how financial resources are spent provides only surface-level insight into staff efforts. In 2020, a team from PHD participated in CDC’s Strategic Scholars program*, and joined a cohort of colleagues from state, tribal, local, and territorial health departments in a skills training program focused on resource management. For the project they conducted as part of this program, PHD assessed how staff members spent their time over two weeks to see how well those activities matched up with their official employee work profiles (EWPs) and current agency priorities. Established for every position in the Virginia Department of Health, EWPs list the core responsibilities of each position and the estimated percentage of full-time hours needed to complete these tasks.

While conducting this analysis, the Population Health team looked to answer the following questions:

  • Should the allocated time for certain staff activities be extended or adjusted?
  • How can we measure staff capacity for shifting duties as PHD priorities change due to the pandemic?

To do this assessment—

  • Each staff member completed an analysis of time and effort for the preceding two-week period.
  • Time and effort spent on activities completed within this period were divided according to core responsibilities indicated on the employee’s EWP (i.e., performance management, resource management, quality improvement, emergency operations).
  • Averages for the two-week period were compared to percentages allotted on the EWP.

Results of the assessment identified the degree to which actual effort (i.e., hours spent on assigned tasks/activities) aligned with budgeted time in the EWP. This assessment helped PHD determine the need to adjust time spent on certain activities or reassign duties to other staff, which will be helpful beyond the pandemic.

As a result of the assessment, PHD reduced some of the emergency operations duties for the Population Health Team, including transitioning duties to newly hired contractors working solely on emergency operations and pandemic response.

To help all PHD staff work more efficiently, PHD’s Population Health Team plans to:

  • Distribute the assessment template throughout the agency to help other departments do similar analyses.
  • Develop specific work plans that correlate EWPs to program initiatives.
  • Connect EWPs with PHD’s strategic plan to create alignment between job duties and desired health outcomes.

For more information, contact Anne Dumadag, Population Health Planning and Improvement Coordinator, Portsmouth Health Department

*Strategic Scholars is a CDC-funded program run by the National Network of Public Health Institutes, in collaboration with CDC’s Center for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support. The program uses a community of practice cohort model to build governmental public health workforce in strategic skill areas.  As part of the program, health department teams engage in training, coaching sessions, and a skills application project.  In addition to resource management, the Strategic Scholars Program has also supported cohorts in change management and systems thinking.

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Disclaimer: Field Notes is designed to spotlight success and innovation in state, tribal, local, and territorial (STLT) health agencies. It is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) effort to highlight what is happening on the front lines of public health. The information in Field Notes is provided by STLT agencies external to CDC. Provision of this information is for informational purposes and does not necessarily constitute an endorsement, recommendation, and/or represent the views of CDC.