Background: The work reported here builds on the identification of public health financial management practice competencies by a national expert panel. The next logical step was to provide a validity check for the competencies and identify priority areas for educational programming.
Methods: We developed a survey for local public health finance officers based on the public health finance competencies and field tested it with a convenience sample of officials. We asked respondents to indicate the importance of each competency area and the need for training to improve performance; we also requested information regarding respondent education, jurisdiction size, and additional comments. Our local agency survey sample drew on the respondent list from the National Association of County and City Health Officials 2005 local health department survey, stratified by agency size and limited to jurisdiction populations of 25 000 to 1 000 000. Identifying appropriate respondents was a major challenge. The survey was fielded electronically, yielding 112 responses from 30 states.
Results: The areas identified as most important and needing most additional training were knowledge of budget activities, financial data interpretation and communication, and ability to assess and correct the organization's financial status. The majority of respondents had some postbaccalaureate education. Many provided additional comments and recommendations.
Discussion: Health department finance officers demonstrated a high level of general agreement regarding the importance of finance competencies in public health and the need for training. The findings point to a critical need for additional training opportunities that are accessible, cost-effective, and targeted to individual needs.