A New Learning Agenda for the Public Health Workforce

Featured Authors: Public Health Learning Network members Karla Barrett, Sarah Davis, Laura Lloyd, Barb Rose, and Christina Welter

Nothing in recent memory has brought the need to invest in the public health workforce to the forefront more than the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond the necessary financial investments, we have to explore a multifaceted approach that includes enhanced training and workforce development for public health practitioners. To address complex public health challenges and manage  the large-scale changes those challenges require, the public health workforce must work collaboratively, and with diverse knowledge and skills, to intervene at organizational, community, and systems levels. This shift demands a new way of thinking and learning, and a transformation in how we approach workforce development in public health.

To provide a strategy for addressing these and other long-standing community challenges, the Public Health Learning Network (PHLN), led by the ten Regional Public Health Training Centers, has developed a new resource, Creating a Learning Agenda for Systems Change: A Toolkit for Building an Adaptive Public Health Workforce.

The Learning Agenda Toolkit offers a new way to design, implement, and evaluate learning by addressing two important new concepts.

First, learning should be responsive to community and systems challenges, not only individual roles and competencies. This represents a shift in the approach to public health’s typical workforce development planning, which is usually built upon improving individual competency. It also changes the starting point by shifting the focus to the community challenge and developing learning that will help address that challenge. Again, we must emphasize that individual learning alone is not enough if we are to bring about big systems changes.

Second, different challenges need different learning approaches, with the most complex challenges requiring systems changes. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning. We need to think long-term, interactive, and iterative if we are going to change systems.

“Individual competency alone is no longer sufficient to create a workforce equipped to address the current complex challenges occurring at the individual, organizational, community, and systems levels. The Learning Agenda outlines the process for building the collective competency of the public health workforce to address these complex challenges.” – The Learning Agenda Working Group

At this point, you may be asking yourself, how do I build a Learning Agenda? You’re on the right track and you’ll find all the resources you need to get started in the toolkit, including a conceptual Learning Framework and the steps and tools for an organization or team to build their own robust Learning Agenda.

The toolkit also includes a rapid self-assessment tool, a discussion guide, and a learning approach planning tool. Together, these tools guide users through understanding the Learning Agenda concepts and assessing their readiness for discussing and designing their organization’s approach.

“Leaders and workforce development influencers interested in piloting the Learning Agenda Toolkit in their organization should download a copy and explore the tools and concepts. Sign up to learn more about the pilot test process, which launches this spring.” – Learning Agenda Working Group

The Learning Agenda Toolkit was conceptualized in response to a 2017 report, which explored existing workforce development approaches to address the greatest challenges facing public health professionals. Through interviews, focus groups, and a document analysis, the PHLN published the Strategic Workforce Action Agenda, which called for a coordinated, systems-level method of addressing workforce development.

This approach requires going beyond individual learning and single interventions to support and sustain a public health workforce with the knowledge and skills to respond to challenges that require multi-sectoral collaboration, collective learning, and multi-level engagement.

Are you ready to elevate your organization’s training and learning? Visit the Public Health Learning Agenda and download a copy of the toolkit today. You can also watch a recording of the Learning Agenda Toolkit launch webinar to hear from the creators about potential applications for your organization.

Want to experience even deeper levels of learning? The PHLN is launching an implementation pilot of the Learning Agenda Toolkit in spring 2021. Small stipends will be offered to organizations to help the design team build more specific ways to increase understanding of how to use the toolkit.

Sign up to be notified about future announcements. Applications open in April 2021.

Connect with us:

Twitter LinkedIn YouTube
Google Plus email
Connect With Us:
Subscribe To Our Communications