Open Access Research article

Do we develop public health leaders?- association between public health competencies and emotional intelligence: a cross-sectional study

Katarzyna Czabanowska12*, André Malho1, Peter Schröder-Bäck1, Daniela Popa1 and Genc Burazeri13

Author Affiliations

1 Department of International Health, CAPHRI, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Maastricht University, P.O. Box 616, Maastricht 6200, MD, Netherlands

2 Institute of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, Jagiellonian University, Medical College, Krakow, Poland

3 Faculty of Public Health, University of Medicine, Tirana, Albania

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BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:83  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-83

Published: 17 April 2014



Professional development of public health leaders requires a form of instruction which is competency-based to help them develop the abilities to address complex and evolving demands of health care systems. Concurrently, emotional intelligence (EI) is a key to organisational success. Our aim was twofold: i) to assess the relationship between the level of self-assessed public health and EI competencies among Master of European Public Health (MEPH) students and graduates at Maastricht University, and; ii) to determine the relationship between different groups of public health competencies and specific EI skills.


A cross-sectional study was conducted including all recent MEPH graduates and students from 2009–2012, out of 67 eligible candidates N = 51 were contacted and N = 33 responded (11 males and 22 females; overall response: 64.7%).Two validated tools were employed: i) public health competencies self-assessment questionnaire, and; ii) Assessing Emotions Scale.


Females scored higher than males in all seven domains of the self-assessed key public health competencies (NS) and emotional intelligence competences (P = 0.022). Overall, the mean value of public health competencies was the lowest in students with “staff” preferences and the highest among students with mixed job preferences (P < 0.001). There was evidence of a correlation between the overall public health competencies and the overall emotional intelligence competencies (r = 0.61, P < 0.001).


The study shows a positive correlation between public health specific competencies and EI attributes. It can contribute to the improvement of the educational content of PH curricula by rising awareness through self-assessment and supporting the identification of further educational needs related to leadership.

Competencies; Emotional intelligence; Public health; Self-assessment; Survey