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Medical Care

Public Health in the 21st Century

An American Journal of Preventive Medicine supplement published in October 2014 addresses critical challenges to public health in the 21st century. Although disease outbreaks and epidemics that are drawing worldwide attention emphasize the importance and acute need for public health professionals, the world faces a longer-term challenge—a public health workforce that is truly effective in the 21st century. In the, experts address critical challenges to public health, from workforce development, capacity building, partnership and collaborations, and changes and needs in workforce composition.

A release from the publisher explains that as the U.S. healthcare system evolves and communities gain more access to care, diverse forces are driving change, and the practice of public health is adapting. Given the challenges to the public health system and those faced as a nation—including urgent health threats (e.g., antibiotic resistance, prescription drug use and overdose, global health security) and decreased funding for addressing public health concerns—having trust in public health practitioners, their scientific knowledge, and particularly the public health system, has never been more important.

The release quotes Guest Editor Fátima Coronado, MD, MPH, Deputy Associate Director for Science, Division of Scientific Education and Professional Development, Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, as saying, “The public health workforce is now not only required to take a lead in protecting citizens’ health, but it also must provide the evidence base needed for linking public health information with clinical services and activities; offer targeted, scalable public health interventions; and support clinical services in a way that affects populations at large,” notes. “This supplement is both timely and important because it reviews some of the critical challenges faced by the public health workforce, discusses selected changes under way, and highlights data-driven research to advance the field of public health services and systems research.”
This groundbreaking supplement, The Public Health Workforce, includes 22 articles from more than 30 institutions, agencies, foundations and public companies and covers two major areas: public health workforce capacity building and public health workforce size and composition.

Key topics in the Supplement include:
• How to clearly define the public health workforce challenges using cause-and-effect diagrams and a concise roadmap.
• Use of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) by the School of Public Health at Harvard and concerns about retention of the knowledge gained using that method of instruction.
• How the CDC conducts workforce development within its own organization.
• Do students who receive adequate training in Public Health and Community Medicine tend to practice in areas with physician shortages?