3114.0 Public Health Competencies for Health Professionals: A Revolving Door for the Future of Public Health

Monday, October 31, 2011: 10:30 AM
During the last decade, many institutions and health services around the globe have been involved in developing public health competency frameworks. These initiatives were responding to the expressed need for a mechanism that facilitates collaboration and coherence across this diverse workforce, to maximize its collective contribution and underpin the influence and importance of public health. These frameworks help to ensure rigor and consistency in skills, competence and knowledge at all levels, regardless of professional background, and enable flexible public health career progression. Traditionally, competencies in public health have been defined as the essential knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for the broad practice of public health, reflecting the characteristics that health services staff and organizations need to protect and promote community health. These competencies transcend the boundaries of specific disciplines, are independent of program and topic and are designed to serve as a starting point for academic and practice organizations to understand, assess, and meet education, training and workforce needs. In recent years, there have been three major initiatives related to public health competencies--in Canada, the UK and the USA (see References)--which were developed following different approaches and are internationally recognized as the reference models on this topic. During 2010-2011, the Human Resources for Health Project (HSS/HR) of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) launched an initiative to develop a comprehensive framework of core competencies based on these models and using PAHO’s Essential Functions in Public Health (EFPH) as a transversal axis. Working groups in several countries (USA, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Peru and Chile) are developing a proposal to simplify and facilitate both the use and implementation of public health competencies by health authorities and academic institutions, taking into account the shortages and uneven distribution of the health workforce present in many Latin American countries. There is also a need to discuss and clarify in professional public health forums how public health competencies can: 1) improve people’s health; b) benefit health professionals, and c) help public health organizations and health services.
Session Objectives: Disseminate the three major reference models in the development and implementation of public health competencies, coming from the United Kingdom, Canada and USA. Present the comprehensive framework of core competencies in public health for health professionals developed by PAHO in 2011, based on the previously mentioned models and the Essential Functions in Public Health (EFPH). Discuss how public health competencies will benefit health professionals, improve the health of the people, and strengthen public health organizations and health services.

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