Credentialing of the Public Health Work Force
Pennsylvania ranks last nationally among all states in the size of its public health workforce per capita. More than a doubling of the current workforce would be needed for Pennsylvania to achieve even the national average. For the foreseeable future Pennsylvania will depend even more heavily than other states on having a highly skilled public health workforce to overcome our shortages in numbers. In this paper, I will discuss the efforts to at long last develop a core credential for the public health workforce and the potential impact this will have on ensuring a highly competent public health work force capable of responding to the public health challenges facing our state and our nation. I will also consider the relationship between public health and medicine including comparing the approaches toward credentialing. Public health is virutally the only professional field without a credential. After many years of committees, task forces, and a recommendation from the Surgeon General, the National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE) was incorporated in December 2005. Its volunteer board has seats allocated to a broad range of participating public health organizations. The first credentialing examination in August 2008, will test for knowledge of core and cross-cutting educational competencies that are relevant to the practice of public health. The driving forces leading to credentialing in public health include: 1) heightened recognition of the importance of the public health work force; 2) an increase in both the absolute number and percent of public health graduates who have no other credential; 3) increase in the availability of public health graduate education throughout the country; 4) societal demand for credentialing and for professional accountability; and 5) improved delineation of the core and cross-cutting educational competencies underlying public health practice.
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