- Open Access
The Developing Role of Systems of Competences in Public Health Education and Practice
Public Health Reviews volume 33, pages134–147(2011)
In recent decades there have been attempts in many professions to define the competences of their practitioners. Over the last quarter century attempts have been made to apply this to public health; initiatives in several countries have been devised to meet the perceived needs of public health education and training (e.g., the United States), of public health practice (e.g., the United Kingdom), etc. The achievements and some of the failings of US and UK initiatives are reviewed.
Since 2006 The Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region (ASPHER) has been working on a system of public health competences suited and adapted to the needs of both public health education and training, and practice. After much work and several stages of development, a third series of competence lists (for public health practitioners generally, for MPH-related education, and for employment purposes) will soon be published. ASPHER believes that for sustainability of a competences project, the competences proposed must be seen as relevant by all public health practitioners and stakeholders, including those engaged in education and training, service work, and public health research. Accordingly, all these stakeholders need to be involved in the preparation of lists of competences.
Sustainability will also require an ongoing system and structure for permanent review of existing public health competences, and of the need for definition of new ones. Possible directions towards the achievement of this are indicated. A generally accepted system of core competences could contribute most to the establishment of a clearly identifiable public health profession across Europe, equipped to address current and future health needs of its peoples.
All three experiences described share similar challenges, and on a continuing basis these will of necessity need to be addressed in the future: the assessment of whether competences have been achieved or not; the evaluation of whether lists of competences are genuinely appropriate both to population health challenges and to the development and management of systems of intervention as experienced in practice; identification of appropriate means to take account of geographical, regional and national disparities within one common competence system.
Harden RM. Developments in outcome-based education. Med Teach. 2002;24:117–20.
Harden RM. Outcome-based education: the future is today. Med Teach. 2007;29:625–9.
Calhoun JG, Davidson PL, Sinioris ME, Vincent ET, Griffith JR. Towards an understanding of competency identification and assessment in health care. Qual Manag Health Care. 2002;11:14–39.
Garman AN, Johnson MP. Leadership competencies: an introduction. J Healthc Manag. 2006;51:13–17.
McClelland DC. Testing for competence rather than for intelligence. Am Psychol. 1973;28:1–14.
National Public Health Partnership. Public health practice in Australia today: A statement of core functions. Melbourne; 2000.
Public Health Agency of Canada. Core Competencies for Public Health in Canada. Ottawa; 2008.
Griffiths SM, Li LM, Tang JL, Ma X, Hu YH, Meng QY, Fu H. The challenges of public health education with a particular reference to China. Public Health. 2010;124:218–24.
Ruseva M. Definitions of Essential Public Health Operations (EPHO) and services in Europe. Personal communication. 2011.
Calhoun JG, Ramiah K, McGean Weist E, Shortell SM. Development of a core competency model for the Master of Public Health degree. Am J Public Health. 2008;98:1598–607.
Centre for Health Policy, Columbia University School of Nursing. Competency-To-Curriculum Toolkit. New York; 2008.
American College of Healthcare Executives. ACHE Healthcare Executive Competencies Assessment Tool. Chicago; 2010.
Faculty of Public Health. Higher Specialist Training. Available from URL: http://fph.org.uk/higher_specialist-training (Accessed 22 March, 2011).
Faculty of Public Health. Learning Outcomes for Public Health. Available from URL: http://outcomes.fph-groups.org.uk/learning_outcomes/ (Accessed 11 February, 2011).
NHS Education for Scotland. What is the NHS knowledge and skills framework (KSF)? Briefing information for education providers to the NHS in Scotland. Edinburgh; 2007.
Foldspang A (Ed.). Provisional lists of public health core competencies. European Public Health Core Competencies Programme (EPHCC) for Public Health Education. Phase 1. ASPHER Series No. 2. Brussels: ASPHER, 2007.
Foldspang A (Ed.). Provisional lists of public health core competencies. European Public Health Core Competencies Programme (EPHCC) for Public Health Education. Phase 2. ASPHER Series No. 4. Brussels: ASPHER, 2008.
Birt C, Foldspang A. Public health capacity building–not only the property of the medical profession. Eur J Public Health 2009;19:232–5.
Whittaker PJ, Pegorie M, Read D, Birt C, Foldspang A. Do academic competencies relate to ‘real public health practice’? A report from two exploratory workshops. Eur J Public Health 2010;20:8–9.
Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region (ASPHER). Work Plan for 2011. Brussels; 2010.
Birt C, Foldspang A. Provisional lists of core competencies for public health professionals (CCPHP). Draft for comments. Brussels: ASPHER, 2011. Restricted circulation to ASPHER members.
Birt C, Foldspang A. Provisional lists of core competencies for MPH education (CCMPHE). Draft for comments. Brussels: ASPHER, 2011. Restricted circulation to ASPHER members.
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Training for Member States. Technical Document: List of core competencies for intervention epidemiologists. Stockholm; 2007.
Developing consensus on competencies and professional standards for health promotion capacity building in Europe (CompHP). European Agency for Health and Consumers (EAHC) Project number 20081209. Newsletter June 2010. Available from URL: http://www.iuhpe.org/uploaded/Activities/Cap_building/CompHPnewsletter_June2010WEB.pdf (Accessed 22 March, 2011).
Recommended Citation: Birt CA, Foldspang A. The Developing Role of Systems of Competences in Public Health Education and Practice. Public Health Reviews. 2011;33:134–47.
About this article
Cite this article
Birt, C.A., Foldspang, A. The Developing Role of Systems of Competences in Public Health Education and Practice. Public Health Rev 33, 134–147 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03391624
- public health
- education and training
- capacity building
- system sustainability