Warren M. Hilton, MA
Assistant Dean for Student and External Affairs
Dean Hilton guest-blogs for us today.
March Madness is one of the most exciting times of the year for sports enthusiasts – and for those of us who work at colleges and universities! The excitement of teams battling in a win-or-go-home scenario brings about a frenzy this time of the year. Our own Drexel Dragons in the CAA have been having quite the season! Seeing conference athletic programs strut their stuff...Cinderella stories that touch our heart...the allure of finding the next mid-major team that will make it to the final four: these are all part of March Madness.
It all starts with a jump ball. Once that ball is thrown up in the air, it is anybody’s game…anybody’s tournament to win. With all the buzz of March Madness, I can’t help but think about a good way to frame the predicted public health workforce shortage.
Yep…public health workforce shortage = madness. The public health workforce that is critical to the survival of the U.S. population is facing a worker shortage that is estimated to leave America with a deficit of 250,000 public health professionals by 2020. Data and government reports indicate the future public health workforce shortage may reach a point of national crisis. With the U.S. population expected to grow by 31,153,802 people between 2010 and 2020, the need for educating the public health workers of the future is evident. There are many suggested avenues for solving the “looming workforce crisis.”
Our colleague Linda Rosenstock, MD, MPH (and Gillian B. Silver, MPH, Karen Helsing, MHS, Connie Evashwick, ScD, FACHE, Ruth Katz, JD, MPH, Michael Klag, MD, MPH, Gerald Kominski, PhD, Donna Richter, EdD, and Ciro Sumaya, MD, MPHTM), provide us with a good game plan to win the game/tournament and solve the public health workforce shortage. If you will indulge me and my enjoyment of sports, I will present that game plan in four quarters and overtime (overtime makes it more thrilling).
First quarter: More funds for public health education – When the ball goes up at the beginning of the game, it will be tipped to the team that has the funding. As noted by the Institute of Medicine, more funding in the form of tuition support, loan forgiveness, and training grants is needed for public health education to build a lead in the first quarter. The Drexel University School of Public Health is mindful of this and is working hard to develop training programs and provide tuition support for students who wish to enter the public health field.
Second quarter: Increase capacity – Knowing that over 85% of public health graduates come from accredited schools of public health and programs, provides the backdrop for the second quarter. How do we increase the capacity of public health education? As noted by the above-mentioned authors, graduate public health education is the “gold-standard.” Thus, accredited schools of public health and programs need to design creative ways to increase their capacity to train current and future public health workers. Certificate programs, training centers, and executive degree formats along with traditional degrees are all viable options. And, thanks to the work of ASPH and Dr. Richard Riegelman, undergraduate public health education has competencies and learning outcomes; and is beginning to increase the numbers of students being trained in public health.
Third quarter: Diversify the public health workforce – The health disparities that exist in our country, along with the shifting demographics of the U.S., call for a more diverse workforce. Thanks go to Dr. John Ruffin and the work of the NIH’s Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities, and CDC’s National Minority Undergraduate Student Program. Training a diverse workforce prepares us to come out for the fourth quarter with a lead.
Fourth quarter: Develop a U.S. Global Health Service – The global need for public health professionals is just as great as the need in the U.S. Creating a U.S. Global Health Service can provide a talented pool of global public health workers and aligns well with the training opportunities at accredited schools and programs of public health.
Overtime: Track the workforce – While we could conclude that the game plan for the first four quarters will win the game, we have one more step to take to deal with the public health workforce crisis: tracking our efforts. Assessing the strategies of the game plan and determining if indeed the plan met its objectives is important to establishing which elements of the game plan we should continue, put more emphasis on, or throw out.
Will we win the game? No one knows the answer for sure, but working the game plan is one way to find out. I am certainly proud to be at an institution that is working the game plan. Enjoy the madness.