At the end of October I attended a meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa of the Association of Schools of Public Health in Africa (ASPHA) during which participants from 17 African countries agreed to develop African public health core competencies to be used by academic training programs across the continent. The meeting also included several invited guests from Europe, North America and Asia to share their experiences in developing core public health competencies on a country or regional level. I was honored to share our experiences with criteria and competency development in the United States.
I am often asked about CEPH’s approach to accreditation of public health schools and programs outside the United States, so I thought it might be helpful to explain the philosophy adopted by the CEPH Board of Councilors several years ago when we began to accredit programs located outside the US. The Council has a three-pronged approach, recognizing that all programs may not be ready for or even want CEPH accreditation: 1) Accredit – if educational systems, public health training philosophies and other factors are congruent with CEPH’s criteria for accreditation, we will accredit the school or program using exactly the same standards as US-based schools or programs (with the exception that the institution can show substantive equivalence with regard to regional accreditation). 2) Assist – we will provide technical assistance to any country or region, at their request and in their own context, with developing a framework for quality assurance. 3) Agree – develop agreements with substantively-equivalent systems in other parts of the world. At this point in time, we have accredited internationally in Canada, Mexico, Lebanon, Grenada and Taiwan and we have now assisted in Europe, the CARICOM region and in Africa as well as in several individual countries throughout the world.
When I travel to meetings to provide assistance, my message is never about what any country’s specific standards or competencies should be – they have all of the knowledge needed locally to answer those questions, but about things to consider in the process of developing standards and lessons learned from our experiences. The principles of a shared vision, clear expected outcomes, broad input, buy-in leading to successful implementation, and quality improvement are important wherever one is in the world.
While there is still much to do to develop, vet and agree to competencies, at this meeting ASPHA made terrific progress in identifying some key domain areas (and they look very familiar!): leadership and management; communication; advocacy; negotiation; organizational change management; systems thinking; policy and planning; diversity and inclusiveness; social determinants of health; and getting research into policy and practice (“GRIPP”).
The Communique from the meeting can be found at http://asphaafrica.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Communiqu%C3%A9-from-2018-ASPHA-Conference.pdf and you can visit ASPHA at www.asphaafrica.net
--By Laura Rasar King, EdD, MPH