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Current State in U.S. Public Health Competency-Based Graduate Education

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Calls for educational transformation by education and workforce leaders, as well as both governmental and professional organizations, have been resounding in the United States over the past decade. As a result, increased recognition of outcomes or competency-based education (CBE) has evolved across health professions education and training arenas. In public health specifically, the identification and specification of competencies related to the five long-standing, discipline-based core areas of knowledge in addition to seven cross-cutting interdisciplinary domains are now required for guiding accreditation, curriculum planning, and the measurement of student achievement in both graduate and undergraduate education. Nevertheless, full realization of CBE for potentially enhancing current educational practices, including both learning and assessment methodologies, remains in the early stages of adoption and curricular integration in both public health graduate education and the health professions at-large.

This article provides an overview of the influences that have led to the consideration and development of strategies for promoting outcomes-based educational performance and accountability across post-secondary higher education in the US; evolving CBE pedagogy in public health graduate education; and experiences to date regarding success factors, barriers, and challenges encountered with the implementation of competency-based education. Recommendations for furthering educational transformation in public health are also discussed.


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Author information

Correspondence to Judith G. Calhoun PhD, MBA.

Additional information

Recommended Citation: Calhoun G, Wrobel CA, Finnegan JR. Current State in U.S. Public Health Competency-Based Graduate Education. Public Health Reviews. 2011;33:148–67.

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Calhoun, J.G., Wrobel, C.A. & Finnegan, J.R. Current State in U.S. Public Health Competency-Based Graduate Education. Public Health Rev 33, 148–167 (2011) doi:10.1007/BF03391625

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Key Words

  • Public health
  • educational competencies
  • outcomes-based education
  • health professions competencies
  • graduate education competencies