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Who Will Keep the Public Healthy?: Educating Public Health Professionals for the 21st Century
assessment of health professionals to meet statewide needs for public and personal health services. States, working in partnership with the federal government are engaged in developing multiple strategies to strengthen the public health infrastructure, including the developmental and educational needs of the public health workforce.
Federal agencies’ roles in public health education and research are multiple and varied including contributing to the research base that forms the content of education, testing educational approaches, helping schools develop infrastructure, supporting faculty development, and providing funding for students. Agencies involved include predecessors and current iterations of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), all of which are branches of the Department of Health and Human Services. From the general perspective of public health education, HRSA and CDC have played the major roles.
HRSA includes the Bureau of Health Professions (BHPr), which has the stated mission to help assure access to quality health care professionals in all geographic areas and to all segments of society. BHPr puts new research findings into practice, encourages health professionals to serve individuals and communities where the need is greatest, and promotes cultural and ethnic diversity within the health professions workforce.
The programs of CDC have supported technical training for public health laboratory staff, and for program staff in tuberculosis control, sexually transmitted disease control, HIV/AIDS prevention, school health, and, more recently, in chronic disease prevention and injury prevention. The Public Health Practice Program Office (PHPPO) has provided a home base for the multi-organization Public Health Workforce Collaborative, a partnership with HRSA that involves nearly every identifiable organization representing some segment of public health workforce development. An Office of Workforce Planning and Policy was created as the organizational locus for external workforce development activities.
The potential roles for federal agencies in developing the public health workforce for the 21st century could take several forms and fall into the categories of research, development of academic programs, development of faculty, support for students, continuing education, technology development, and modeling.
Local state and federal health agencies all play critical roles in educating public health professionals for the 21st century. Local health departments are the backbone of service in public health, meeting a broad range of public health needs of the diverse communities within their areas. State health departments facilitate the implementation of the Essential Public