How Public Health AmeriCorps Prepares Future Leaders in Public Health

The Public Health AmeriCorps program, launched in 2022 after a period of unprecedented public health crisis worldwide, was created in partnership with AmeriCorps and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a way to create a pipeline to the public health workforce. The Public Health AmeriCorps program as it stands today is a model of how to create a training program that empowers community health practitioners within AmeriCorps’ expansive framework of national service initiatives. This specialized program channels the energy and dedication of AmeriCorps members towards combatting public health challenges across the United States. Its inception stemmed from a recognition of the critical intersection between public health and community well-being, aiming to fortify local health infrastructures through targeted interventions and community-driven initiatives. AmeriCorps members participating in the program serve as frontline agents of change, deploying their skills and passion to address issues ranging from health education and disease prevention to equitable healthcare access and emergency response.

Public Health AmeriCorps represents a strategic extension of AmeriCorps’ overarching mission to foster civic engagement and address pressing societal needs. By honing in on public health disparities and empowering communities to take charge of their well-being, the program amplifies the impact of national service efforts. As of the latest available data, the program has mobilized thousands of AmeriCorps members, facilitating tangible improvements in health outcomes across diverse communities. These statistics not only underscore the program’s efficacy but also highlight its pivotal role in advancing AmeriCorps’ broader mission of service and social responsibility. (Source:

At the heart of PHA’s training approach lies a multifaceted strategy designed to cater to the diverse learning styles and backgrounds of its members. Utilizing a blend of asynchronous online learning, in-person service work, and live webinar series, PHA ensures that its members receive a comprehensive educational experience. In conversation with Dr. Aretha Costley, Training Manager for the Public Health AmeriCorps program, we learned more about what makes this unique opportunity so special and impactful for members.

  1. Can you describe the various training modalities utilized by Public Health AmeriCorps to prepare its members for service in the public health sector?
    • Most PHA’s training programs incorporate asynchronous blended learning, such as online educational materials and interaction, followed by in-person seminars with subject matter experts during conferences. PHA’s Foundational Training comprises eLearning components, including interactive modules, videos, podcasts, slideshows, and webinars. Video learning is also incorporated into the training because of members’ various responsibilities at their organization. During public health conferences hosted by multiple collaborative partners, in-person training sessions are crafted to enhance members’ soft skills or professional public health competencies. These training sessions have interactive discussions and case studies engrained into the sessions. These in-person sessions enable members to place themselves in everyday public health situations.
  2. How do you ensure that the training programs cater to the diverse learning styles and backgrounds of AmeriCorps members?
    • PHA’s training strategy encompasses a multifaceted approach to effectively meet its end users’ needs and learning styles. PHA’s trainings offer visual aids, interactive exercises, hands-on activities, and auditory cues to facilitate engagement and comprehension across members’ various learning styles. PHA’s training framework also offers alternative training formats with supplementary materials, fostering an inclusive learning environment. Offering these multiple products helps PHA tailor the curriculum to a member’s unique learning style.
  3. Can you provide examples of hands-on, experiential learning opportunities offered to AmeriCorps members during their training?
    • PHA’s training offerings incorporate experiential learning by designing objectives aligning with public health and soft-skills competencies. Additionally, each training module uses hands-on activities, case studies, and real-life scenarios to immerse participants in learning and applying theoretical and practical concepts. The experiential training encourages collaboration, communication, and teamwork as they analyze public health challenges and share insights gained from their individual experiences. The objective is to inspire active participation, stimulate creativity, and cultivate a culture of continuous learning among PHA members.
  4. In what ways does the training program foster collaboration and networking among AmeriCorps members, enhancing their ability to work effectively within interdisciplinary teams in the public health field?
    • PHA validates the training curriculum with guest lectures and subject matter experts (SMEs). SMEs bring in-depth knowledge and expertise from specific public health areas, providing valuable insights that complement and expand upon the content in the foundational learning plan. Because of their field expertise, SMEs are often the most aligned with forthcoming public health trends, best practices, and technologies. Guest lecturers and presentations introduce diverse perspectives and alternative viewpoints, fostering critical thinking and enriching discussions among participants. Furthermore, using an expert at the forefront of public health initiatives provides networking and mentoring opportunities to establish connections and expand their professional networks. Lastly, SMEs validate and reinforce the training curriculum’s credibility and relevance, affirming its alignment with industry standards and best practices.
  5. How does Public Health AmeriCorps ensure that its training curriculum remains aligned with the evolving needs and priorities of the public health sector?
    • Regular curriculum assessments involving public health end-users are essential. PHA regularly gathers feedback from public health experts, members, supervisors, policymakers, educators, and other relevant public health entities to identify emerging challenges, gaps in knowledge, and evolving public health priorities. Before the curriculum is developed, extensive research and active stakeholders are consulted during the curriculum development process. Consultative resources come from diverse public health agencies, academia, healthcare organizations, community groups, and focus groups to provide input on curriculum content, methodologies, theories, and desired learning outcomes. Moreover, the curriculum is vetted and evaluated throughout the process to assess curriculum effectiveness. Furthermore, feedback to improve or adapt training may come from surveys, interviews, and performance assessments.

The combination of service experience and innovative training activities offered by Public Health AmeriCorps represents a powerful model for cultivating the future of the public health workforce. By providing a comprehensive educational experience, fostering experiential learning opportunities, promoting collaboration and networking, and remaining responsive to evolving industry needs, PHA is shaping a generation of public health leaders poised to make a meaningful impact on the health and well-being of communities across the nation. As the challenges facing our world become increasingly complex, programs like PHA play a crucial role in building a brighter, healthier future for all.

Learn more about Public Health AmeriCorps here.


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