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Advancing the public health workforce to achieve organizational excellence
Report: Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals Reflect Strategic Skills Needed to Take Action

Related Categories: Council on Linkages, Workforce Development

Topic: Council on Linkages, Workforce Development

Author: Kathleen Amos

Date: 7/31/2017

The Council on Linkages Between Academia and Public Health Practice (Council on Linkages) and its predecessor, the Public Health/Faculty Agency Forum, have long emphasized the need for skills that cut across public health disciplines and provide a foundation for effectively delivering the Essential Public Health Services. With the release of Building Skills for a More Strategic Public Health Workforce: A Call to Action, the de Beaumont Foundation and the National Consortium for Public Health Workforce Development reinforce the critical need for strategic cross-cutting skills.
As highlighted in this Call to Action, strategic cross-cutting skills such as systems thinking, change management, persuasive communication, and diversity and inclusion are a critical complement to discipline-specific expertise in the current public health environment. Such skills are embedded in the Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals (Core Competencies), a consensus set of skills for the broad practice of public health, and provide a foundation on which discipline-specific skills can be built.
First released by the Council on Linkages in 2001 and regularly revised since, the Core Competencies reflect foundational skills desirable for professionals engaging in the practice, education, and research of public health. Health departments, academic institutions, and other public health organizations are increasingly taking action to build these skills within the public health workforce.
According to the most recent Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and National Association of County and City Health Officials Profiles studies, more than half of state health departments and nearly half of local health departments are using the Core Competencies in workforce development efforts, to support such activities as creating and implementing workforce development and training plans, conducting needs assessments and performance evaluations, and ensuring job descriptions reflect the skills for success in a position. While additional incentives may be needed to more universally integrate the Core Competencies into these activities, the Public Health Accreditation Board has created incentives for this practice by calling for competency-based job descriptions and workforce development plans in its requirements for accreditation. More than 90% of academic institutions sharing data for a mid-point review of the relevant Healthy People 2020 objective reported use of the Core Competencies, and the Council on Education for Public Health has recently revised its accreditation criteria, placing more emphasis on cross-cutting competencies. 
The Call to Action confirms and reinforces the importance of the cross-cutting skills identified in the Core Competencies, the work of the 22 national public health practice and academic organizations comprising the Council on Linkages, and the more than 1,000 comments received from the public health community that shaped the 2014 version of the Core Competencies. As noted in the Call to Action, the strategic skills listed within the Call to Action “are consistent with the consensus set of Core Competencies … and identify training priorities within these competencies where training is needed.” Making such training opportunities accessible to the public health workforce continues to be a priority for the Public Health Foundation (PHF) through the TRAIN Learning Network and its provision of on-site training. The Core Competencies are built into TRAIN, enabling learners to identify courses that build skills in these areas, and a number of on-site services are available to help organizations strengthen their competency-based workforce development efforts.
As the Call to Action states, individuals “at all levels must seek to cultivate the skills that enable better communication, management, and collaboration” to support population health. These skills are key to moving beyond disciplinary and organizational silos to a more integrated system as public health continues to evolve, and PHF is ready to help public health professionals and organizations on this journey. To learn more, explore PHF’s online resources and tools, visit the TRAIN Learning Network, or discover PHF’s on-site services. Questions or requests related to the Core Competencies may be sent to Kathleen Amos at


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Report: Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals Reflect Strategic Skills Needed to Take Action