The Kentucky plan: an innovative approach to professional doctoral education in public health.
The public health discipline is receiving increased attention in the United States under initiatives for health care reforms. It is realized that community-wide interventions to prevent disease and promote health are more cost-effective than medical interventions to cure injury and illness. Internationally, these same realizations were embedded in the Alma Ata movement for increased primary care. To improve respect for public health professionalism, a national effort is now underway in the United States to establish minimum competencies for public health practice, and to assure that these competencies are addressed as part of professional graduate studies. Using nationally recommended competencies detailed across nine public health and a separate cross-cutting list of universal competencies, the University of Hawaii School of Public Health assessed all their courses to determine the degree each competency is addressed by each course. A four-point scale was used. Lead faculty for each course assessed the depth of coverage. For the Hawaii School of Public Health, this study identified important gaps in instruction, and possible areas of over-instruction. This information will assist the School to revise course offerings and academic/clinical posts. This approach to curriculum reform and the establishment of minimum competencies for academic public health should also prove useful to other schools in the US and elsewhere. By standardizing professional competencies, the public health profession with increase in stature and impact.