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WHAT IS A CORE COMPETENCY?

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The Public Health Foundation Council on Linkages between Academia and Public Health Practice defines competencies as "a set of skills desirable for the broad practice of public health. They are designed to serve as a starting point for academic and practice organizations to understand, assess, and meet training and workforce needs." The Department of Homeland Security also defines a competency as "an observable, measurable set of skills, knowledge, abilities, behaviors, and other characteristics that an individual needs to successfully perform work roles or occupational functions. Competencies are typically required at different levels of proficiency depending on the specific work role or occupational function."

Currently, the four sets of existing competencies that are directly relevant to medical and public health response measures in emergencies include:

  1. Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals from the Public Health Foundation Council on Linkages Between Academia and Public Health Practice
  2. Core Public Health Worker Competences for Emergency Preparedness and Response from the Columbia School of Nursing
  3. Bioterrorism and Emergency Preparedness Competencies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  4. Medical Reserve Corps Competencies from the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO)

Each of these sets of competencies contains anywhere from 8 to over 100 individual, itemized competencies, often organized by skill set or job category.

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COMPETENCY VS. TRAINING

How Do They Differ and How Do They Complement One Another?

Medical and public health training and education efforts generally attempt to gear their learning objectives to meet the needs of one or several of the competencies.  This is similar to the role of standards in medical and public health fields, with respect to using standards and competencies as a driver for the development of relevant training programs.  Competencies may also be used to drive workforce development initiatives, including determining what levels and scope of training are required by various members of the workforce.  In addition, competencies may be used to develop job descriptions, whereas training may be a requirement of obtaining or keeping a particular job.

Flash Content"The New York/New Jersey Public Health Training Center uses the Council on Linkages Competencies to guide the development of their training programs. The competencies are used as a basis for the intended learning outcomes. The learning level and competencies for all of their original web-based programs are entered into a database on their Continuing Education Plan website that public health workers can search by Competency Domain or Core Competency. Trainings developed by other organizations are reviewed to assess their quality and competencies covered. These are listed in the Continuing Education Plan database as well."

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