Sign Up to Receive PHI Alerts

Caring for the Future

Project Date: January 2020-January 2021

In 2019, as we began designing our year-long Caring for the Future report and public education project, we knew that the long-term care field had changed dramatically since we published our last in-depth analysis of the direct care workforce nearly a decade earlier. From government and industry leaders to a growing constellation of advocates, people had gradually begun to recognize the value of direct care workers and the dire need to transform their jobs through policy and practice. But what did this mean precisely? they often asked. We knew we could provide the answers.


The foundation for this project was an in-depth report on the direct care workforce, which we began releasing in early 2020. To generate a sustained dialogue throughout 2020 and early 2021, we released the report in four parts, with each part exploring a different aspect of this workforce. We worked with an illustrator to provide original imagery to brand the report and campaign, giving every product a philosophical, aspirational aesthetic. The release of the full and final reportCaring for the Future: The Power and Potential of America’s Direct Care Workforce—was timed to inform the initial stages of a new presidential administration (or the second term of the previous president, had the election results been different).


We issued new data for each of the four initial reports to strengthen their messages, bolster their newsworthiness, and draw more attention to this campaign. The data also enhanced the evidence for direct care workforce interventions, helping explain, in quantitative terms, why this workforce needs critical attention.

“This is just the latest excellent PHI analysis about how essential and undervalued our nation’s direct care workforce has become. Their research continues to provide a clear, sector-based argument for how policymakers should prioritize new investments in these workers to raise their compensation, rationalize and expand training pathways for their advancement, and establish greater equity in the industry.” ~ Andy Van Kleunen, Chief Executive Officer, National Skills Coalition


Because much of today’s political and cultural discourse occurs on social media, we paired organic and paid social media campaigns with each of the five reports. Every report featured new data, policy analysis, and original worker stories from across the country, providing for a range of perspectives on strengthening the direct care workforce, while also increasing our digital reach and engagement.


The emergence of COVID-19 in March 2020—two months into this campaign—presented an unprecedented opportunity to relate the issues described in these reports to the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on direct care workers and the people they support. Accordingly, we interviewed and featured workers who described how they were navigating COVID-19 and focused the fourth report partially on the virus’s impact on this workforce. This report allowed us to connect the immediacy of this catastrophe to the longstanding, systemic challenges facing these workers.


Caring for the Future provided a framework to guide our country through one of the most significant eras for the direct care workforce—as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of our sector and the world, and as the new Biden-Harris presidential administration began prioritizing direct care workforce issues. The individual and final reports and related public education campaign reached more than a million users online and generated extensive news coverage. We also saw a spike in related policy activity—that continues to this day—from policymakers nationwide who routinely reference our ideas in their proposals and briefings, to government officials who regularly contact us for formal technical advice on complex policy questions. Finally, in May 2021, Caring for the Future received a prestigious Communicator Award for Excellence from the Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts, honoring our creative approach as well as our enormous contribution to public policy.

“This report offers the long-term care field a much-needed, comprehensive snapshot of our country’s direct care workforce, which deserves our national attention and support more than ever.” ~ Katie Smith Sloan, President and CEO, LeadingAge

Consultants: RD Design, Constructive

Supporters: W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Woodcock Foundation

Caring for the Future

Our new policy report takes an extensive look at today's direct care workforce—in five installments.

Workforce Data Center

From wages to employment statistics, find the latest data on the direct care workforce.