1. Blue, Amy V. PhD
  2. Garr, David R. MD

Article Content

The position statement of the American College of Preventive Medicine that appears in this issue of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice recommends that "physicians should work with other health professionals to promote healthy diet, lifestyle, and physical activity patterns in children and in adolescents." Success at addressing the childhood obesity epidemic calls for an interprofessional approach that would benefit from the participation of physicians, nurses, office-based staff, classroom teachers, students, nutritionists, exercise physiologists, behavior change specialists, parents, and others, all working together to address this high-priority healthcare need. The benefit of an interprofessional approach can be cited when considering other priority preventive services such as immunizations and tobacco use, which are also addressed in this issue.


The interprofessional approach is fostered through interprofessional education (IPE), whether this education is provided for learners within training programs or practitioners taking advantage of continuing education opportunities. The Institute of Medicine report Health Professions Education: A Bridge to Quality recommends that health professions schools embrace the new vision to graduate practitioners with competencies to "cooperate, collaborate, communicate, and integrate care in teams to ensure that care is continuous and reliable."1 Through IPE experiences, present and future practitioners will be better prepared to provide interprofessional care.


"Interprofessional education" is described as the process when healthcare professionals learn with, about, and from each other with the goal of facilitating collaboration. Effective IPE fosters learners' abilities to value and invite the contributions of other healthcare professionals when providing healthcare services. The IPE is not intended to remove differences between professions, but to clarify different professionals' contributions to a healthcare need, and then integrate knowledge and skills to provide the most beneficial care to a patient or population.2


Much work in IPE has occurred internationally, for example, with the Centre for the Advancement of Professional Education in the United Kingdom ( and the Canadian Interprofessional Health Collaborative for Patient Centered Practice ( In the United States, sponsorship from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and support from the Health Resources and Services Administration in the 1990s established the Interdisciplinary Professional Education Collaborative, an effort that developed new interdisciplinary health professions education in continuous improvement at several sites across the country.2 This demonstration project was fundamental in establishing initial IPE activities in the United States. Subsequently, many institutions have initiated courses and projects that address IPE, and there are examples of comprehensive institutional IPE strategies, such as the University of Washington's Center for Health Science Interprofessional Education (, the Office of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Education at East Carolina University (, and the Medical University of South Carolina campus-wide initiative "Creating Collaborative Care" (


Healthcare associations now recognize the need for an interprofessional approach. The Association for Prevention Teaching and Research, with support from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, has helped convene and facilitate the work of the interprofessional Healthy People Curriculum Task Force. This group, composed of representatives from the disciplines of allopathic and osteopathic medicine, undergraduate and advanced practice nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, physician assistant studies, with advisory input from the Community-Campus Partnerships for Health and the Association of Schools of Public Health, has been working since 2003 with the goal of advancing clinical prevention, population health, and IPE in health professions education programs. The Healthy People Curriculum Task Force has published a framework for teaching clinical prevention and population health (, has launched the Prevention Education Resource Center ( as a repository for prevention education curricular and resource materials, and has been working with the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences with the goal of incorporating public health education into the curricula of colleges and universities. All of these initiatives are designed to increase the emphasis on prevention and population health in educational settings and to prepare the next generation to be better informed about these areas of emphasis.


The Healthy People Curriculum Task Force also received funding from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to sponsor the Institute for Interprofessional Prevention Education. Fourteen interprofessional teams composed of at least three members each, drawn from academic centers throughout the United States, were selected to meet for 2 days in Washington, DC, in September 2007 to develop plans to introduce interprofessional prevention education programs at their institutions. The ultimate goal is for the team members to lead efforts that will increase the attention accorded to interprofessional approaches to delivering preventive services to individuals and to populations. Representatives from these teams were encouraged to share the results of their programs during the coming years at professional meetings and in the literature. The first opportunity for them all to do so will occur in Austin, Texas February 20-24, 2008 when at least one member from each team will present a poster at the Preventive Medicine 2008 meeting. The posters will include information about the objectives, methodology, and evaluation plans for their interprofessional prevention education projects.


Changing how we educate future healthcare professionals to emphasize interprofessional approaches to prevention will require leadership and collaboration at both the institutional and community levels. Health professions educators from different disciplines can work together to modify the curricula in their institutions to foster IPE. Institutions can commit to IPE by facilitating students' IPE within and outside of the classroom and by providing faculty development opportunities. Community-based clinical experiences using interprofessional teams can help prepare students to understand the importance of addressing the healthcare needs of populations and can provide firsthand appreciation of the value of teamwork when providing preventive services. Linking health professions education programs with public health education and delivery systems, and organizations such as the national Area Health Education Centers ( has the potential to bring about substantial changes in the culture and future of healthcare delivery. It is time to look seriously at changing the methods we use to educate healthcare professionals, increasing the emphasis on prevention and addressing the needs of populations using interprofessional teams.


We look forward to seeing greater attention to interprofessional prevention education and health services delivery in the coming years with the goal of reversing the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases that could have been prevented by a workforce that was better trained to work together to sustain health.




1. Institute of Medicine. Health Professions Education: A Bridge to Quality. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2003. [Context Link]


2. McPherson K, Headrick L, Moss F. Working and learning together: good quality care depends on it, but how can we achieve it? Qual Health Care. 2001;10(suppl 2):ii46-ii53. [Context Link]