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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Validation of public health competencies and impact variables for low- and middle-income countries

Prisca AC Zwanikken1*, Lucy Alexander2, Nguyen Thanh Huong3, Xu Qian4, Laura Magana Valladares5, Nazar A Mohamed6, Xiao Hua Ying4, Maria Cecilia Gonzalez-Robledo5, Le Cu Linh7, Marwa SE Abuzaid Wadidi8, Hanan Tahir9, Sunisha Neupane2 and Albert Scherpbier10

Author Affiliations

1 Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

2 School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape, Capetown, South Africa

3 Hanoi School of Public Health, Hanoi, Vietnam

4 School of Public Health, Fudan University, Shanghai, China

5 National Institute of Public Health, Cuernavaca, Mexico

6 Ministry of Health, Khartoum, Sudan

7 Department of Demography, Hanoi School of Public Health, Hanoi, Vietnam

8 Human Resource Development, Federal Ministry of Health, Khartoum, Sudan

9 University of Medical Sciences and Technology, Khartoum, Sudan

10 Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:55  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-55

Published: 20 January 2014

Abstract

Background

The number of Master of Public Health (MPH) programmes in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is increasing, but questions have been raised regarding the relevance of their outcomes and impacts on context. Although processes for validating public health competencies have taken place in recent years in many high-income countries, validation in LMICs is needed. Furthermore, impact variables of MPH programmes in the workplace and in society have not been developed.

Method

A set of public health competencies and impact variables in the workplace and in society was designed using the competencies and learning objectives of six participating institutions offering MPH programmes in or for LMICs, and the set of competencies of the Council on Linkages Between Academia and Public Health Practice as a reference. The resulting competencies and impact variables differ from those of the Council on Linkages in scope and emphasis on social determinants of health, context specificity and intersectoral competencies. A modified Delphi method was used in this study to validate the public health competencies and impact variables; experts and MPH alumni from China, Vietnam, South Africa, Sudan, Mexico and the Netherlands reviewed them and made recommendations.

Results

The competencies and variables were validated across two Delphi rounds, first with public health experts (Nā€‰=ā€‰31) from the six countries, then with MPH alumni (Nā€‰=ā€‰30). After the first expert round, competencies and impact variables were refined based on the quantitative results and qualitative comments. Both rounds showed high consensus, more so for the competencies than the impact variables. The response rate was 100%.

Conclusion

This is the first time that public health competencies have been validated in LMICs across continents. It is also the first time that impact variables of MPH programmes have been proposed and validated in LMICs across continents. The high degree of consensus between experts and alumni suggests that these public health competencies and impact variables can be used to design and evaluate MPH programmes, as well as for individual and team assessment and continuous professional development in LMICs.

Keywords:
Public health competencies; Impact; Low- and middle-income countries; Master of Public Health