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The Future of the Public’s Health in the 21st Century
curriculum. Because integrated interdisciplinary teaching is important to the preparation of a well-trained workforce that is capable of addressing today’s broad array of public health issues, academic institutions must ensure that funds are available for integrated interdisciplinary teaching activities and must provide incentives in their reward structures for faculty participating in such activities.
The emerging focus of a broad education based on competencies, both basic and discipline specific, is important. However, the need for public health students to understand medical practice and for physicians to understand public health practice, including the ethical and legal foundations of public health, must be kept in mind. The committee endorses the findings of the Macy Foundation conference—that there must be greater synergy between education for medicine and education for public health—and extends that endorsement of synergy to education in other clinical health science professions.
Therefore, the committee recommends that academic institutions increase integrated interdisciplinary learning opportunities for students in public health and other related health science professions. Such efforts should include not only multidisciplinary education but also interdisciplinary education and appropriate incentives for faculty to undertake such activities. Additional discussion of the need to increase collaboration and education between public health and other health professions can be found in the report Who Will Keep the Public Healthy?, developed by the IOM Committee on Educating Public Health Professionals for the 21st Century (IOM, 2003).
Public health workers should be trained in a set of core public health competencies and should have opportunities for practical experience; and additional education and training must be tailored to and depend on the experiences, activities, and functions of particular groups. For example, current MPH students have training needs that differ from those of past graduates of such programs who have been practicing for many years in a public health agency. The training needs of public health nurses differ in critical ways from the training needs of health educators, administrators, and environmental professionals. Identification of these specific training needs requires assessment and evaluation.
Solloway and colleagues (1997) reported on a study funded by HRSA to assess state agency-based health workforce capacity and examine state training and educational needs in five states: Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, Oregon, and Rhode Island. The authors report that most state public health workers have no formal education or training in the field of public health, lack a good understanding of the goals and mission of public health, and do not have a full understanding of the activities carried out by public health