Maximizing the contribution of the public health workforce: the English experience
F Sim, K Lock, M McKee
In the United Kingdom, until the 1990s, specialist practice of public health was dominated by the medical profession. During the past decade, the contributions to specialist public health practice of people from diverse disciplines have become recognized, respected and valued. In parallel to this paradigm shift in culture in the specialist workforce, recognition is growing of the importance to health improvement of the routine activities of people in other jobs, whose daily work can have a significant impact on population health. These people include public health practitioners, such as environmental health officials, but also others in a very wide range of occupations, from local government chief executive officers to catering assistants, who, although their actions can have a substantial influence on public health, would not traditionally have been viewed as part of the public health workforce.
Transforming opportunities for training and professional development to meet the diverse needs of these different groups within the public health workforce for them to recognize and fulfil their potential for health improvement is an important challenge, if we are to achieve continuing improvements in public health. Presenting England’s attempts to address the challenges of recruiting and training the range of people needed to deliver effective intersectoral public health may offer insights for those facing similar challenges in other countries.