Academic journal article Public Health Reviews; Rennes

The Roles of Non-Governmental Organizations in Development of Schools of Public Health: An Example from Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Academic journal article Public Health Reviews; Rennes

The Roles of Non-Governmental Organizations in Development of Schools of Public Health: An Example from Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the health sphere have gained strength, momentum and numbers over time. The Director General of WHO,1973-1988, recognized the ability of NGOs to influence policy makers, as noted by Narayan, Wise, and Ghebrehiwet: "Dr. Mahler, Director General of WHO at the time, publicly states that it was the non- governmental organizations (NGOs) who pressed WHO strongly to move beyond a disease-focused, expert-dependent, techno-management approach, based on the dominant system of medicine, to one wherein community participation, inter-sectoral coordination and appropriate technology were important."1 A recent (2010) acknowledgement by Laaser and Epstein of the power of NGOs in the health arena states that the fourth phase of the internationalization of health "is characterized by the growing influence of health-related, non-governmental organizations (NGOs)..."2 which include those in the arena of public health, such as the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA), the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE), the International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI), national and regional public health associations, and national and regional associations of schools of public health.

Discussions of development of schools of public health (SPHs) almost uniformly include the 1915 Welch-Rose report3 and the resulting funding of the development of SPHs in the United States and abroad by the Rockefeller Foundation in particular. On a national scale, the development of schools by the Rockefeller Foundation sought to provide trained professionals for public health service.4 On an international scale, the Foundation implanted schools and institutes around the world creating a movement of professionals in which new ideas and techniques could be shared.5 Direct funding for establishment and capacity building of SPHs remains an issue in many parts of the world, but other aspects of their growth and development, such as the determination of competencies needed by public health professionals and the quality (and its measurement) of the educational programs to be taught in SPHs are crucial as well.

A 21ST CENTURY CALL FOR ACTION: EDUCATION OF HEALTH PROFESSIONALS

In 2010 a Global Independent Commission on the Education of Health Professionals for the 21st Century called for a global social movement of all stakeholders, including NGOs, to propel action to promote a new century of transformative health professional education.6,7 Although the report shows the dearth of information about health professionals' education in general, its findings highlight the continuing lack of information about public health professional education per se:

1. of the 11,054 publications found in the Commission's search for publications about health professions education, only two percent were about public health;

2. although there are an estimated 467 schools and departments of public health globally, the estimation of public health institutions was incomplete because of definitional ambiguity/variability in definition; and

3. the Commission could not estimate the number of public health graduates because of data and definitional restrictions.6,7

In a separate article, Evans notes that it is surprising how little research has been done to assess the role of SPHs in contributing to population health as well as the lack of research on the strengths and weaknesses of the different models of SPHs.8 Although efforts have begun to identify and map public health professional education institutions (e.g., AfriHealth9), and originally the data were to be included in a global database of health professions educational institutions (Avicenna Directories),10 the information available at the site to date is about medical education only. Databases about member schools and programs exist and are being updated within national and regional associations of SPHs, but many schools or programs are not association members. …

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