analogy. At the turn of the last century the Flexner report, which revolutionized the education and practice of medicine, looked at least at three dimensions: the science, the standards, and the models. The analogy applies to challenges in implementing the report recommendations for public health education. With respect to science, the report has highlighted the need to better characterize the nature of the scientific disciplines that are important to educating public health professionals. With respect to standards, the report points out that we need to better define the core competencies of the masters of public health, and even to consider credentialing. The implementation challenge for standards is to obtain a balance. While a goal is to increase the standards and define the competencies in a fashion that will elevate the profession, it is important not to establish barriers to entry that will deter participation by other professionals who are fundamentally important to our public health progress. Dr. McGinnis states that standards development is key, but must be acted upon in a careful fashion.
The notion of models is also key: teaching models, leadership models, and practice models. One of the challenges is to develop teaching and curricular models that will cut across disciplines. Further, models that better engage the public health practice community as a part of the educational process are necessary. The notion of a teaching public health agency and models of excellence for teaching public health agencies is a key challenge.
Finally, according to Dr. McGinnis, an implicit but important challenge is the need to better communicate what public health is to the broader public. Public health will only attract the best and brightest if there is a genuine understanding on the part of the public about what public health is. Public health must create the demand for a public health workforce; a workforce that is well supported by the public it serves. Public health professionals must reach out to the community with a communication strategy that will help enhance the awareness, understanding, and support for what public health is and what it can accomplish.
Dr. Kristine Gebbie, co-chair of the authoring committee, provided an overview of the report recommendations. (Please see Appendix B for a copy of the slides used during Dr. Gebbie’s presentation.) The study charge was to develop a framework for how education, training, and research can be strengthened to meet the needs of the future public health professionals. The report defines a public health professional as “a person educated in public health or a related discipline who is employed to improve health through a population focus.” Dr. Gebbie described the two key parts of this definition. First is the notion that a public health professional is someone who is educated in public health or is considering the health of populations. Public health professionals receive education and training in a wide range of disciplines and come from a variety of professions. The definition includes both those with a public health degree, as well as those who come to work in public health through another discipline, for example a mental health worker in a public health agency who has a population focus but no formal public health degree.