When current events collide with CEPH competencies

Time magazine recently devoted an entire issue to the topic of climate change and imagining what 2050 will look like if we really take action now to avoid the worst impacts predicted. It’s obvious that climate change has and will continue to impact public health in a number of ways, but something else became obvious to me as I read: the CEPH foundational competencies articulate many of the skills that are needed to change our path for the future.

These articles discussed environmental injustice, discrimination, social determinants of health, and acute and chronic diseases. They called for the need for policy changes related to environmental risks like exposure to air pollutants, soil and water contamination, and clean-energy alternatives. They addressed the importance of advocating for vulnerable communities, establishing honest dialogue with those most affected, and developing partnerships between decision makers and those experiencing the worst impacts of climate change.

As I read, I kept thinking “MPH graduates can do these things!” The foundational competencies adopted in 2016 focus on the skills that are necessary for all MPH graduates, regardless of the content area/concentration that graduates apply these skills within. Here are some specific examples:

  • Discuss the means by which structural bias, social inequities, and racism undermine health and create challenges to achieving health equity at organizational, community, and societal levels
  • Assess population needs, assets, and capacities that affect communities’ health
  • Apply awareness of cultural values and practices to the design or implementation of public health policies or programs
  • Propose strategies to identify stakeholders and build coalitions and partnerships for influencing public health outcomes
  • Advocate for political, social, or economic policies and programs that will improve health in diverse populations
  • Evaluate policies for their impact on public health and health equity
  • Select communication strategies for different audiences and sectors
  • Communicate audience-appropriate public health content, both in writing and through oral presentation
  • Describe the importance of cultural competence in communicating public health content

At CEPH we love to see the interesting discussions and creative curricular approaches that are emerging to address climate, the environment, and health. Earlier this month, ASPPH hosted a webinar focusing on Environmental Health Programming that Inspires and Excites that includes some terrific examples.

Climate change and its effect on human health is a critical public health issue. Public health professionals have always been willing to tackle big challenges – and I believe they are now better able with the knowledge and skills included in the curriculum.

Written by Kristen Varol, MPH, CHES