Identifying public health competencies relevant to family medicine

Bart J Harvey, Brent W Moloughney, Karl T Iglar
American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2011, 41 (4 Suppl 3): S251-5
Public health situations faced by family physicians and other primary care practitioners, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and more recently H1N1, have resulted in an increased interest to identify the public health competencies relevant to family medicine. At present there is no agreed-on set of public health competencies delineating the knowledge and skills that family physicians should possess to effectively face diverse public health challenges. Using a multi-staged, iterative process that included a detailed literature review, the authors developed a set of public health competencies relevant to primary care, identifying competencies relevant across four levels, from "post-MD" to "enhanced." Feedback from family medicine and public health educator-practitioners regarding the set of proposed "essential" competencies indicated the need for a more limited, feasible set of "priority" areas to be highlighted during residency training. This focused set of public health competencies has begun to guide relevant components of the University of Toronto's Family Medicine Residency Program curriculum, including academic half-days; clinical experiences, especially identifying "teachable moments" during patient encounters; resident academic projects; and elective public health agency placements. These competencies will also be used to guide the development of a family medicine-public health primer and faculty development sessions to support family medicine faculty facilitating residents to achieve these competencies. Once more fully implemented, an evaluation will be initiated to determine the degree to which these public health competencies are being achieved by family medicine graduates, especially whether they attained the knowledge, skills, and confidence necessary to effectively face diverse public health situations-from common to emergent.

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