A strategic approach to workforce development for local public health

Beverley Bryant, Megan Ward


SETTING: In 2009, Peel Public Health set a vision to transform the work of public health from efficient delivery of public health services as defined by provincial mandate to the robust analysis of the health status of the local population and selection and implementation of programming to achieve best health outcomes. A strategic approach to the workforce was a key enabler. PPH is a public health unit in Ontario that serves 1.4 million people.

INTERVENTION: An organization-wide strategic workforce development program was instituted. It is theory-based, evidence-informed and data-driven. A first step was a conceptual framework, followed by interventions in workforce planning, human resources management, and capacity development. The program was built on evidence reviews, theory, and public health core competencies. Interventions spread across the employee work-life span.

OUTCOMES: Capacity development based on the public health core competencies is a main focus, particularly analytical capacity to support decision-making. Employees gain skill and knowledge in comprehensive population health. Leadership evolves as work shifts to the analysis of health status and development of interventions. Effective human resource processes ensure appropriate job design, recruitment and orientation. Analysis of the workforce leads to vigorous employee development to ensure a strong pool of potential leadership successors.

IMPLICATIONS: Theory, research evidence, and data provide a robust foundation for workforce development. Competencies are important inputs to job descriptions, recruitment, training, and human resource processes. A comprehensive workforce development strategy enables the development of a skilled workforce capable of responding to the needs of the population it serves.


Public health; evidence-based practice; evidence-based medicine; professional competence; health personnel

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17269/cjph.108.5864