Master's Project Title:

ASPH MPH Core Competency Model Implementation Survey

MCH Student:

Adrienne Voorhees

Date of Defense:

April 8, 2010


Purpose: In 2005, the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH) released Phase I of the Master’s Degree of Public Health (MPH) Core Competency Model consisting of discipline-specific competency domains. In 2006, ASPH released Phase II which included inter-disciplinary or cross-cutting competency domains. The full integrated model, Version 2.3, was released in August of 2006 and is the current working model. ASPH began offering a voluntary MPH certification exam in the fall of 2008 that tests students’ mastery of the MPH Core Competency Model. While the certification exam is being offered, ASPH has not conducted an evaluation measuring the implementation of the curricula competencies in public health schools. This ASPH Education Committee survey measured and described the awareness, adoption, and integration of the competencies into curricula. The data from the survey will be useful for comparing Model implementation, crafting policies and assembling resources, assisting these schools to more efficaciously integrate these fundamental competencies.

Objective: The aim of this survey is to understand the current status and challenges of implementing the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH) Masters of Public Health Core Competency Model in the accredited schools of public health. Methods: The survey was conducted online through the Healthy Survey Research Center at the University of Minnesota. The survey design was based on the Theory of Organizational Readiness for Change and consisted of both quantitative and qualitative questions. Quantitative questions included three formats: lists, 4-point Likert scales and yes/no. Qualitative questions were open-ended. Due to participants’ busy schedules, the survey was brief with an expected completion time of 20-30 minutes. Respondents were key informants as chosen by deans at accredited U.S. schools of public health. Investigators expected most respondents to be associate or academic deans.

Results: Awareness of the Model was higher among faculty than students, yet both faculty and students support and value competency-based learning for public health students. Schools primarily distributed the Model through informal faculty discussions, school-wide curriculum planning meetings, and policy changes. Champions for the adoption of the model were, in order, deans’ offices, curriculum committees and department heads. While awareness values were high for both faculty and students, the most prominent reported barrier to implementation was lack of faculty interest, followed by lack of faculty time for integration of the model into curricula, and thirdly, lack of faculty awareness and understanding of the model. Model implementation varied greatly between schools and across competency domains; the core domains are more greatly integrated at this time than the cross-cutting domains. The Model is most greatly aligned with field experiences, followed by capstone projects and course evaluation methods. Three-quarters of SPHs have mapped the competencies to specific program curricula.

Conclusion: The ASPH MPH Core Competency Model was developed as a working, integrative model with the understanding that it be adapted over time as insights into its curricular integration emerge. As expected, the discipline-specific domains were more likely to be fully implemented, as they have long been the foundation of the MPH degree, while SPHs were more likely to be in the process of implementing the cross-cutting domains into curricula. Continued championing of the Model needs to happen throughout SPH leadership, particularly within departments and between faculty. This survey has provided a baseline for the ASPH Education Committee as it moves discussion forward, addressing the successes and challenges of instituting substantial change for SPH curricula.