Educating Public Health Professionals for the 21st Century

Type: Consensus Study
Topics: Health Care Workforce, Public Health
Board: Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice

Activity Description

The 1988 IOM report, The Future of Public Health, proclaimed public health to be in disarray and prompted national discussion about the status of public health, including the public health workforce. The report called for (1) development of a workforce ready to address emerging public health problems, both in terms of practice and leadership; (2) professional development for those already operating the system; and (3) expansion of the pool of personnel prepared to perform the essential public health services. 

While progress has been made in response to concerns raised, a systematic review of such progress, and what remained to be achieved in the face of emerging challenges, was lacking. In recognition of this need, the IOM conducted a 12-month study, funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to examine education and training for public health professionals; contrasting the current status to future needs; and using these findings to develop a framework for how, over the next five to ten years, schools of public health could strengthen their public health education, training, and research.

Specifically, the committee addressed the following questions:

What is the current status of training, curricula, and research efforts at accredited schools of public health?

How has public health education evolved over time?

What progress has been made by schools of public health in responding to the recommendations posed in the 1988 IOM report, The Future of Public Health?

What does a systematic review of the capabilities of schools of public health reveal with respect to their capacity to educate and train professionals that will meet future needs for assuring population health?

Are the broad research agendas of schools of public health inline with future needs to assure the health of the public?

What role can national institutions and resources play in supporting a well-trained public health workforce?

What recommendations can be made to improve public health education, training, research, and leadership?

The multidisciplinary study committee was comprised of members with expertise in fields such as public health practice, academic public health, health professional training, general graduate and continuing education, medicine, public policy, population-based research, social and behavioral sciences, genetics, and information technology. The committee met five times over the course of the study (9/01 through 8/31/02) and obtained information employing a variety of methods including: public hearings, site visits, commissioned papers, a survey, and liaison panels.

The committee, in developing a framework for strengthening public health professional education, drew upon study outcomes and recommendations posed by the Committee on Assuring the Health of the Public in the 21st Century.

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