Competencies

The School of Public Health is a competency-based program.  We want each student who comes through the program to be able to be knowledgeable about public health, what it is, and how it works. This knowledge of public health consists of understanding the nature of public health and public health issues – what influences the creation of these problems and what impacts do these problems have on the health of the population or populations based on race and ethnicity, geography, age, income and educational level, among others. 

For example, if obesity is the public health issue of concern, what percentage of people in the community are concerned obese?  How is this percentage determined?  Are these percentages similar for different segments of the population, such as youth, elderly, poor, those of low educational levels, and those in various racial and ethnic backgrounds? 

What factors are associated with obesity?  Logically, physical activity and food consumption are.  But what about age, gender, race, income, education, access to care, and geography?  What affect does obesity have other diseases, like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and dementia?  Who pays for the treatment for these diseases?  How much?  In what environments (hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, health departments, other)?

But once we understand the problem, we need to try to solve it. Whether that problem exist on the local, regional, state, multi-state, national or international level.  Who is involved in obesity prevention (health departments, non-profit organizations, academic institutions, other?) What’s working?  What’s not?  Why?  How can you leverage the existing work in obesity prevention to create something sustainable? 

Based on what you know so far, that answer is probably not discernable.  Oftentimes, you need to collect data; you need to be able to develop and administer surveys, conduct interviews and focus groups, or some combination. Then you need to be able to analyze that data to get a deeper understand of the specific issue you are facing.  Does the literature align with what you found from your data?  Are there differences?  The results should help inform the next steps toward helping to improve health outcomes. Do these next steps include legislated policy?  Programs?  Both?  Something else? 

To take these next steps, in the Health Policy and Management concentration, you need to be able to understand and navigate through the policy making process, including advocacy, operationalization, and policy evaluation.  In the policy arena, you will need to be able to work with different stakeholders, coalitions and groups to help promote or negate the importance or relevance.  You will need to communicate, orally and in writing, with a variety of groups – such as legislators, executives, the general public, funders/donors and other supports -- each with different reading and communication styles.  

You will need to be able to work in policy implementation, and help the organization to operate and flourish.  You will need to be able to determine if a policy or other action/initiative fits with the organization’s mission and vision.  You will need to determine what resources are needed, if you have these resources and how you can obtain these resources to support the policy or program.  You will need to be able to create tools to determine program feasibility, evaluate program success and make recommendations for future work, and develop and justify budgets. 

The courses and experiences you have in the program will give you the education needed to obtain these skills, and other opportunities will help to reinforce what you have learned. 

People who choose a masters of public health (MPH) degree with a concentration in health policy and management want to attain a variety of skills to solve health-related problems in a number of settings, particularly those who want to affect policy and/or manage the organizations that affect policy or deliver public health services.