As detailed in Chapter 2, the funding stream historically has fostered emphasis within schools of public health on the research function. Such an imbalance has impeded maximizing the contributions of schools in practice and education. Moreover, the traditional single-discipline approach to agency funding has limited the repertoire of public health research. Recommendations to correct problems associated with funding have been proffered in Chapter 6 of this report. The committee emphasizes that it believes research, practice, and teaching are all important, both to the future of schools of public health and to the health of the populations served by graduates of those institutions.
As discussed in Chapter 2, funding for public health education has risen and fallen over the course of the 20th century. Currently, funding for health education programs and schools of public health remains problematic, making it difficult for schools of public health as well as other programs to institute the necessary changes recommended by this report.
The committee acknowledges the major contributions of philanthropic foundations to the development of public health education in the United States and emphasizes the renewed importance of foundation support to fund new initiatives and experiments in public health education. However, greater support for public health education is needed from state and federal governments to ensure that a competent, well-educated public health workforce is available (see Chapter 6 for specific recommendations).
Public health professionals, knowledgeable about the ecological approach to health and educated in a transdisciplinary fashion, are essential to preserving and improving the health of the public. Well-educated researchers are needed to help us understand the kinds of interventions and policies that lead to improved health and the kinds of barriers that must be overcome to design and implement effective interventions. Knowledgeable faculty, with both practice experience and research expertise, are needed to prepare the next generation of practitioners and researchers with necessary competencies. Highly trained practitioners are needed for leadership and senior positions of responsibility to guide the development and implementation of programs, policies, and systems that will benefit the health of the public. Schools of public health are uniquely positioned to educate these professionals but can only do so if sufficient funding is available to develop the programs and approaches necessary to prepare future public health professionals for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. Recommendations for such funding are discussed in Chapter 6.
The following chapter discusses the role of programs and other schools in educating public health professionals.