Pandemic-Related Workplace Violence and Its Impact on Public Health Officials, March 2020‒January 2021

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health identified 1,499 unique reports of harassment across local health departments in the U.S. during the first 11 months of the pandemic, from March 2020 to January 2021. In addition, more than half of surveyed local public health departments—57%—had been targets of harassment. The study also found that across state and local health departments, 222 public health officials left their positions during this time period. More than a third of those departures—36%—involved officials who had experienced some form of harassment.

The study, published online on March 17, 2022 in the American Journal of Public Health, provides scope and context to departures of public health officials during the first phase of the pandemic. The findings underscore the importance of prioritizing worker safety and well-being in health departments and in public health systems, especially in times of crisis and discord.

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Media Mentions:

Public Health Watch (03/28/2022): As Pandemic Enters Third Year, Public Health Workers Are Suffering High Levels of Mental Distress

STAT News (03/17/2022): ‘Is it worth it?’: New report lays bare harassment of public health officials during the pandemic

The Hill (03/18/2022): Harassment of public health officials was widespread in first phase of pandemic, report says

Washington Post (03/17/2022): Local health officials report threats, vandalism and harassment during the pandemic, study finds

WBAL-TV (03/17/2022): Study: Harassment of public health officials widespread problem during pandemic

WJZ / CBS Baltimore [Video] (03/17/2022): Calls For Change After Hopkins Study Finds Harassment Prevalent For Health Officials

WJZ / CBS Baltimore (03/17/2022): Study Shows Harassment Prompted Some Health Officials To Resign During The Pandemic

WYPR News (03/17/2022): New study sheds light on harassment against local health officials