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Strategies and Tools for Public Health Workforce Training Needs Assessments in Diverse and Changing Population Health Contexts

Aidala, Angela A. PhD; Cavaliere, Brittney MPH; Cinnick, Samantha MPH, CHES, CPH

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: June 07, 2018 - Volume Publish Ahead of Print - Issue - p
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000803
Practice Full Report: PDF Only

Context: A key component of the improvement of public health infrastructure in the United States revolves around public health workforce development and training. Workforce challenges faced by the public health system have long been recognized, but there are additional challenges facing any region-wide or cross-jurisdictional effort to accurately assess priority workforce training needs and develop training resources to address those needs. These challenges include structural variability of public health organizations; diverse population health contexts; capturing both topic-specific skill sets and foundational competencies among public health workers; and reaching/representing the target population despite suspicion, disinterest, and/or assessment “fatigue” among employees asked to participate in workforce development surveys.

Objective: The purpose of this article is to describe the challenges, strategies to meet those challenges, and lessons learned conducting public health workforce training needs assessments by academic and practice partners of the Region 2 Public Health Training Center (R2/PHTC).

Setting and Participants: The R2/PHTC is hosted by the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and serves New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands within its jurisdiction.

Results: Strategies for responding to diverse organizational structures and population health contexts across the region; defining training priorities that address both foundational competencies for public health professionals and content-specific training to address local public health needs; reaching/representing target populations of public health workers; and analysis and report writing to encourage rapid response to identified needs and comprehensive workforce development planning are discussed. Lessons learned are likely instructive to other workforce training needs assessments in complex and ever-changing public health environments.

Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, New York (Dr Aidala and Ms Cinnick); and Connecticut Health Foundation, Hartford, Connecticut (Ms Cavaliere).

Correspondence: Angela A. Aidala, PhD, Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, 722 W 168 St, Rm 551, New York, NY 10032 (

The work described in the article was supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant no. UB6HP27878-01-00, Affordable Care Act Public Health Training Centers. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS, or the US Government.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's Web site (

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