Interprofessional and intersectoral work are vital to public health practice, and CEPH requires its schools and programs to evaluate students’ competency in this area. In public health, we define interprofessional work as collaboration and coordination with professions outside the professional disciplines of public health. In other words, it is not epidemiologists collaborating with public health policy professionals but epidemiologists collaborating with other professions that have their own distinct identities and specialty knowledge. When considering interprofessional education (IPE), many faculty and staff think of professions like physicians, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, and physical therapists.
However, in public health practice, collaboration goes far beyond the health sciences, involving sectors like education, urban planning, food science, and engineering and requiring collaboration with housing authorities, police departments, business leaders, and beyond.
It is important for public health professionals to understand the roles and specialty knowledge and skills of relevant professionals and how they contribute to overall public health goals. Of course, you cannot address every profession or every scenario in class, but teaching with as broad a perspective as possible is important.
While some of our accredited units seamlessly incorporate IPE into their curriculum using school and/or university level resources, we understand that not all units have the same structures in place. This can lead to challenges in addressing the MPH foundational competency 21 requirements. We recently revised the language of this competency with the new 2021 Criteria, hoping to inspire units to explore innovative approaches. Below, we present examples that go beyond the traditional health science-focused group work on a case study. We hope that you will find these examples helpful and urge you to explore innovative approaches when evaluating your IPE requirements!
Each student group interacts with the guest speaker as they formulate a solution to the problem by integrating their current public health training & knowledge in concert with the guest speaker’s perspective & information. The guest speaker provides constructive feedback to the student group. The goal is to have a conversation on the potential benefits, feasibility & possible negative downstream effects of the prescribed solution.
Following this discussion, the guest speaker relays the solution that was employed to address the problem & students pose questions regarding the ‘real’ solution. Students individually complete the Interprofessional Integration Assignment that summarizes knowledge gained from the other professions/sectors. Students are graded on their individual submission via an assessment-specific rubric.
Students receive training in the classroom in advance of this process and are also trained by the United Way before being placed on interprofessional teams of area professionals to complete the grant review process. This service-learning represents a high value learning experience that reinforces best practices in obtaining public health funding through competitive grants and the importance of clearly formatted program planning and evaluation, while providing a window to experience different leadership styles and different professional perspectives in real time. Students are assessed on their ability to bring together different perspectives to advance health, by how well they collaborated on their grant review panel (scored by each external panel chair), and on how they are able to connect those experiences with other colleagues to the outcome of their panel’s work in their final, individual paper that reflects on specific principles of collaboration across professions or sectors.
Written by: Cara Damico Smith, MPH