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Learning and Collaboration Key to Building the Strongest Public Health Workforce

Date: 11/17/2016 3:29 PM

Related Categories: Council on Linkages, Workforce Development

Topic: Conferences and Events, Council on Linkages, PHF News, TRAIN, Workforce Development

Tag: Academic Health Department, Academic Health Department Learning Community, Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals, Council on Linkages, Email Newsletter Content, PHF E-News, TRAIN, Workforce Development

Author: Kathleen Amos

​Kathleen Amos, MLIS, Assistant Director, Academic/Practice Linkages, Public Health Foundation


During a special session at the American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting earlier this fall, Public Health Foundation (PHF) President Ron Bialek, MPP, opened his remarks with a big thank you to APHA for putting public health workforce issues front and center at this year’s meeting.

The APHA Annual Meeting brings together approximately 12,000 public health professionals – members of this critical public health workforce – in an event that fosters learning and collaboration, two elements emphasized throughout the session, The Public Health Workforce: Building the Future. With speakers representing the de Beaumont Foundation, Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH), National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE), and PHF, the session led attendees on an exploration of how public health practitioners in academia, governmental public health, philanthropy, and the nonprofit sectors can come together to build the best public health workforce of the future.

Edward Hunter, MA, President and Chief Executive Officer of the de Beaumont Foundation, shared insights from the Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey (PH WINS) conducted in 2014; Donna Petersen, ScD, MHS, CPH, Chair of the ASPPH Framing the Future Task Force, spoke of the Task Force’s work to present a new vision for public health education for the 21st century; and Richard Kurz, PhD, Chair of the NBPHE Board of Directors, highlighted the job task analysis conducted to inform the Certified in Public Health exam. All of these efforts considered skills relevant for the public health workforce, and skills and competencies, as reinforced by Mr. Bialek, are not a luxury.

Neither is building bridges between organizations, fields, and sectors that – directly or indirectly –influence health. To have maximum impact on health, collaboration is essential. Public health practice organizations, academic institutions, community-based organizations, and others all have roles and responsibilities in ensuring a functioning public health system. Public health and healthcare have opportunities to work together on assessing and addressing community health needs, as highlighted by alignment in requirements set by the Public Health Accreditation Board for health department accreditation and the Internal Revenue Service for non-profit hospitals.

How do we build these skills, competencies, and collaborations – and ultimately, a stronger workforce? Through participating in the TRAIN Learning Network, which currently provides competency-based training to over 1.2 million learners from health departments, hospitals, and other organizations. Through getting involved with activities of the Council on Linkages Between Academia and Public Health Practice (Council on Linkages), which brings 22 national organizations together to build consensus and connections between practice and academia. Through supporting workforce development that enables attainment of the foundational skills described in the Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals (Core Competencies). And through advocating for the resources needed to maintain the public health workforce and demonstrating the value that workforce brings to achieving a culture of health within every community across the country.

This last point was central to a second APHA Annual Meeting session, Working Together to Improve Performance within Public Health: Translating Workforce Development Priorities into Action, which focused on the consensus priorities for workforce development expressed in the Council on Linkages’ recently adopted Strategic Directions, 2016-2020. These priorities illustrate important areas of focus in an evolving public health field, and your thoughts and suggestions on these priorities are key for moving them from paper to action.

Public health practitioners, educators, and others came together at the APHA Annual Meeting to learn from one another and share ideas for continuing to enhance Council on Linkages support for the Core Competencies and academic health department (AHD) partnerships, with discussion ranging from ideas for AHD Learning Community webinars to new resources related to the Core Competencies, from the need to show the impact of AHD partnerships to the value of demonstrating connections between the Core Competencies and discipline-specific competency sets. But the conversation shouldn’t stop there. Share your suggestions for these Council on Linkages initiatives, and your ideas and concerns related to workforce development more broadly, in the Comments section below or by email to, and help keep the workforce in focus as the heart of the public health system.



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