Movement from knowledge-based to competency-based MPH curriculum in the United States
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Council on Education for Public Health
Publication date: 2023-04-27
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A669
Background and Objective: In 2016, the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), the accrediting body for schools and program of public health in the United States and worldwide, adopted a competency-based approach as the foundation for the MPH curriculum, replacing a disciplinary-based, five core knowledge area (i.e., biostatistics, epidemiology, health services administration, social/behavioral sciences, and environmental health) approach. Prior to 2016, accreditation criteria required students to “complete sufficient coursework to attain depth and breadth in the five core areas of public health knowledge.” In practice, all programs addressed this expectation by requiring at least one distinct class in each of the five knowledge areas. These five classes comprised the “core curriculum.” The 2016 accreditation criteria define a set of 12 foundational learning objectives and 22 foundational competencies for the MPH, with no specific references to core areas or disciplines. This presentation will focus on the evolution of the core curriculum completed by all MPH students five years after these changes were adopted. Methods: Accreditation self-evaluation documents, appendices, and university websites accessed between March and May 2020 were reviewed and curricula were coded as A) Retained five core course structure, B) Added/changed courses, or C) Integrated courses. Results: Results indicate that only 10% of programs have retained the pre-2016 model of curricula, and 11% of programs have pursued complete integration of the core curriculum. Nearly 80% have modified the core curriculum by retaining some discipline-specific classes and adding new non-discipline specific core classes. The most frequently added classes are those in program planning, implementation, and evaluation; research methods; and general Introduction to public health. The median number of required classes went from five in 2016 to seven in 2021. Conclusions: A discipline-based curricular approach is not the preferred method in a competency-based learning model.
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