Janelle Nichols, MPH, Project Associate, Academic/Practice Linkages, Public Health Foundation
June 26, 2017 marks the three-year anniversary of the release of the 2014 version of the Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals (Core Competencies) and offers an opportunity for the Council on Linkages Between Academia and Public Health Practice (Council on Linkages) to celebrate the role these competencies are playing in workforce development efforts across the country and recommit to continuing to support you in these efforts. During the past three years, use of the Core Competencies and related tools and resources has continued to increase, with this use supporting current and future public health professionals in areas from education to training to achieving Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) accreditation.
The Core Competencies describe foundational skills for professionals working in the field of public health, and as that field changes, these competencies have been regularly reviewed and revised since their introduction in 2001 to ensure they continue to meet the needs of the workforce. Based on feedback received from the public health community, the Council on Linkages and its Core Competencies Workgroup undertook a complete revision of the Core Competencies in 2013. Revisions took into account over 1,000 comments provided by more than 350 professionals, including practitioners, educators, and researchers in governmental public health, academia, non-profit organizations, and the private sector, and focused on incorporating new concepts and simplifying competency statements.
Since the release of the 2014 version, health departments, academic institutions, and other organizations have continued to use the Core Competencies, with a significant increase recently reported among local health departments. The 2016 National Profile of Local Health Departments study conducted by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) shows a 73% increase in use of the Core Competencies among local health departments since the study was last completed in 2013 – with usage growing from 26% of local health departments to 45%. The NACCHO study further highlights increases in use of the Core Competencies for all activities explored – assessing training needs, developing training plans, writing position descriptions, and conducting performance evaluations – with use for training plans and position descriptions doubling between 2013 and 2016. Data also show that more than 50% of state health departments use the Core Competencies, as do approximately 90% of academic public health-focused programs. The Core Competencies are referenced in the PHAB Standards and Measures; incorporated into Healthy People 2020; used by national organizations and networks such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Public Health Training Centers; and built into the TRAIN Learning Network, which currently reaches more than 1.5 million learners with competency-based training.
As the Core Competencies become easier to use and the number of tools and resources available to support use increases, the Core Competencies are also better able to play a role in new broad workforce development efforts, such as the Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey (PH WINS); the recent revision of the Council on Education for Public Health’s accreditation criteria and the National Board of Public Health Examiners' Certified in Public Health (CPH) exam; and the development of discipline-specific competencies. The Council on Linkages continues to focus on tool development – with the latest tool released earlier this month – and providing guidance to individuals and organizations seeking to strengthen their use of the Core Competencies.
Based on the current momentum and increases in use, the Council on Linkages has decided not to revise the Core Competencies at this time, and the 2014 version will remain in place for the foreseeable future. As Council on Linkages’ efforts to support the public health workforce in using the Core Competencies continue to move forward, we welcome your feedback and suggestions, as well as your success stories. Have you used the Core Competencies for workforce development? Have you developed a job description, workforce development plan, training, or other resource that integrates the Core Competencies and are willing to share it with others? We’d love to hear about your experience! Please share your story or resource in the Comments section below or by email with me at email@example.com.