1. Lee, Joel M. DrPH, CPH
  2. Caine, Virginia A. MD
  3. McElligott, John E. MPH, CPH

Article Content

The preceding editorial in this issue, by Virginia Caine and Robert Pestronk, presents a robust argument for collaboration between public health practice and academia to improve the nation's public health. This theme issue, conceived in collaboration with the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH)/Pfizer Public Health Academy of Distinguished Teachers, seeks to elevate the excellence, visibility, scholarship and impact of learning and teaching in public health. We believe that teaching and learning in the community is an essential component of public health education that contributes to achieving our mutual goal of improving the health of the population. In its 2003 report, Who Will Keep the Public Healthy? Educating Public Health Professionals for the 21st Century, the Institute of Medicine recommended that schools of public health become "active participants in community-based research, learning, and service" as well as calling for enhanced participation in the educational process by senior practitioners, and significant expansion of supervised practice opportunities in the community.1 The report also recommended that schools of public health should collaborate with schools of medicine, nursing, and other academic units to provide "transdisciplinary approaches to active community involvement to improve population health."1 In recent years, a number of initiatives have addressed the Institute of Medicine recommendations for improvement in the quality of public health education and in turn its relationship to practice and new opportunities promoting teaching and learning in the community. Examples are as follows:


1. Council on Education in Public Health (CEPH)-accredited schools and programs are expected to address practical skills in their professional degree programs: "all professional degree students must develop skills in basic public health concepts and demonstrate the application of these concepts." This assures that all students have some exposure to practice as a component of their education, but this is a starting point and many additional opportunities exist.2


2. While the Health Resources and Services Administration supported Public Health Training Center awards to CEPH-accredited schools of public health, or public or nonprofit private institutions have existed for a decade, a new opportunity has been presented in the 2011 cycle. Centers are now expected to involve faculty members and students in collaborative projects to enhance public health services to medically underserved communities. In addition, Centers are encouraged to establish or strengthen field placements for students in public or nonprofit private health agencies or organizations, particularly those serving underserved areas and populations. Field placements are encouraged to provide public health students with experience and exposure to public health agencies and organizations such as city, county, tribal, and state health departments and nonprofit private health agencies or organizations with a special focus on the underserved areas and populations.


3. Concurrently, the Council on Linkages Between Academia and Public Health Practice has initiated the Academic Health Department (AHD) Learning Community seeking to emulate the relationship between medical schools and hospitals as sites for teaching, research, and service. Current Learning Community resources include a bibliography, a paper presenting the basic elements of the academic health department model, and holding meetings to address the concept. These efforts expand upon ASPH demonstration projects where 3 schools of public health developed collaborative partnerships with health departments.


4. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching established a classification for universities "Community Engagement" that is described in a commentary in this issue. Fifteen of 46 accredited schools of public health and 35 of 83 accredited programs in public health are located in colleges and universities designated with the Carnegie Community Engagement classification.


5. In a rapidly changing environment, additional trends contributing to the opportunity to expand public health teaching and learning in the community include the establishment of defined educational competencies for undergraduate, Master of Public Health, and Doctor of Public Health education by ASPH; the creation of a public health professional certification credential by the National Board of Public Health Examiners; and a call for reforms to professional education by the Education of Health Professionals for 21st Century Commission. Each of these initiatives helps to create an opportunity for the collaboration between education and practice to enhance the contribution of public health students and engages faculty in practice.



In summary, the coeditors agree that teaching and learning in the community is essential to the achievement of our mutual objectives in academia and practice. In seeking submissions for this theme issue, the editors were pleased and surprised to see the high response and excited to receive 184 abstracts for consideration. The volume of submissions demonstrates that teaching in the community is an active component of education. While there were many good examples of teaching and learning in the community submitted from public health schools and programs, it is noteworthy that the majority of submissions described academic/practice opportunities in other heath professional schools. Consequently, those of us in public health practice and teaching have the opportunity to learn from the experience of other health professions, as we expand our engagement in the community. The articles in this issue reflect excellence and innovation serving as models for others to build upon in public health teaching and learning in the community.




1. The Institute of Medicine. Who Will Keep the Public Healthy? Educating Public Health Professionals for the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2003:126. [Context Link]


2. Council on Education for Public Health. Accreditation criteria. Updated 2011. Accessed April 17, 2011. [Context Link]