University of South Florida

Public health programs across the country see major changes to curriculum [Multimedia]

USF COPH Dean Donna Petersen leads the national group propelling changes in how we prepare tomorrow’s public health workforce.

In a packed conference room in Washington, DC, Donna J. Petersen, ScD, MHS, CPH, stood before hundreds of public health educators and shared the news: the Public health curriculum that was defined 100 years ago – and only tweaked since – was about to change significantly.

Dr. Petersen, dean of the USF College of Public Health, was presenting “Framing the Future: The Second Hundred Years of Education for Public Health,” a national effort created for the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) by dozens of experts across three years. The goal was two-pronged: to improve population health and to better prepare the public health workforce.

Framing the future1_RSS (2)

Is it complete? No, and it won’t be – the new framework is meant for the next 100 years but the hope is that it will continually be improved upon, said Dr. Petersen, who is also the chair-elect  for ASPPH.

“This is meant to be an on-going dialogue with continued conversations about improving public health by improving public health education,” she said. “The reality is that changes in health care, in public health, and in higher education demand a closer look at the entire spectrum of public health education and practice.”

Framing the Future began with a question: If we were able to expose every undergraduate student in the country to public health, what would that look like?

That first piece – the Undergraduate Learning Outcomes – was used as a functional model for the rest of Framing the Future, which included the launch of more expert panels. In total, more than 100 professionals guided in-depth and inclusive discussions to create a series of frameworks that laid out new curricula beyond just undergraduate to include the entire spectrum of public health. In its entirety, Framing the Future embraced Undergraduate, Master’s, Doctorate, Population Health across all Professions, Community Colleges and Public Health, Governmental Public Health Workforce, PhDs and Other Research Degrees, and Technology and Education Innovations.

Still to come is a framework for K-12, because “the earlier you expose the concepts of global health the more likely you’ll fill the pipeline with future practitioners, as well as a more informed public,” Dr. Petersen said.


Dean Donna Petersen USF Health College of Public Health

In addition to the task force and expert panels, an advisory board called the Blue Ribbon Employers Advisory Board was formed that included several dozen representatives from every kind of public health employer, to inform the work of the larger group.

In building each framework, each group was to step back and take what is called an “empty room approach.”

“We didn’t want to make adjustments to existing curricula,” Dr. Petersen said.  “Incremental changes have been made for the past 100 years, since the concepts formed in the Welch-Rose report of 1915. We are beyond incremental change. We need to build new curricula from scratch with what we know is needed today, as well as for the next 100 years. To do that, we had to have other voices in the room.”

The expert panels created for each framework included representatives from academics, professionals in the field, and the groups that hire public health professionals, all working together to create what could be used for teaching and training tomorrow’s public health leaders and practitioners. To validate the effort, every expert panel report was vetted by the full task force, the Education Committee of the ASPPH, and the ASPPH board. This open-air process allowed for idea sharing and inclusion, helping institutions across the country have part ownership in the results.

In total, six frameworks were built – with others potentially in the offing – that define a consensus, a voice and a direction, Dr. Petersen said.

The frameworks have been well received, she said, and are stimulating active conversations across the country. So facing the public health educators in Washington, DC, represented both a culmination and a beginning.

Dean Donna Petersen USF Health College of Public Health

Dr. Donna Petersen, dean of the USF Health College of Public Health.

“It was standing room only,” she said. “A line went out the door and spilled into the hallway. These frameworks are the starting point for on-going conversations about the current state of managing and tracking the health needs of communities, both locally and globally. Educators want them. The needs of today’s workforce demand them. And the trajectory of tomorrow’s health professionals is being propelled by them.”

Click here to see Framing of Future.

Photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Office of Communications
Video by Sandra Roa, USF Health Office of Communications


Network-wide options by YD - Freelance Wordpress Developer