The Role of Public Health Training Centers in Public Health

Public Health in the National News – In October 2011, the College of Public Health (COPH) was awarded funding to launch the Great Plains Public Health Training Center (Great Plains PHTC). The purpose of the PHTC program nationally is to improve the nation’s public health system by strengthening the technical, scientific, managerial, and leadership competence of the current and future public health workforce. The program is funded through the Affordable Care Act Prevention and Public Health Fund, and is administered through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Bureau of Health Professions via a cooperative agreement. Currently, there are 37 PHTCs across the country (http://bhpr.hrsa.gov/grants/publichealth/phtcoverviewdocument.pdf).

The Great Plains PHTC at the COPH is unique in its efforts to address the needs of not only the governmental public health workforce, but also tribal entities and public health care providers (such as Federally Qualified Health Centers) in the state.

Opportunities through the Great Plains PHTC include the following:

  • Field Placements for undergraduate and graduate level students in local and tribal health departments across the state of Nebraska
  • Collaborative Project Stipends for trio teams of faculty, students, and local health departments to address an unmet need of the community
  • Leadership Speaker Series to showcase leaders in the field for practice-centered grand rounds
  • Support and subsidy to the Great Plains Public Health Leadership Institute, providing a year-long leadership development experience to public health leaders in Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota
  • Online Learning Modules and additional Education and Training Events tailored to the workforce needs in Nebraska

After just one year, the Great Plains PHTC has collected stories of how these programs benefit public health in Nebraska. For example, field placements have had great impact on the students and the local health agencies. The competitive paid fellowship program places students in health departments for the summer (11 students were placed in rural and tribal health departments in summer 2012). One student placed in a rural health department was the first ever bilingual Spanish-English speaking staff member. As part of her activities, she planned a Hispanic Family Health Night. The purpose of the event was to uncover health concerns of the Latino community. Through the event, the health department learned that economic help, tornado preparedness, and basic prevention knowledge were unmet needs. After the field placement experience the student said, “My feelings about forwarding my education in public health are stronger than ever now. The time that I spent at the health department opened my eyes about how important it is to promote health, teach individuals how to prevent sickness, and how to protect themselves from possible hazards.” The student’s commitment to this work has led her to volunteer for the health department as a translator . . . even though it is a four-hour drive round trip.

For more information on the Great Plains PHTC, contact Brandon Grimm: blgrimm@unmc.edu, 402-559-5645.

This article was written by Brandon Grimm, PhD, director of the UNMC COPH Office of Public Health Practice, and Katie Brandert, MPH, CHES, workforce and leadership development manager in the COPH Office of Public Health Practice.


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