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Public Health Nutr. 2003 Dec;6(8):839-47.

Competency development needs of the Australian public health nutrition workforce.

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Nutrition Unit, School of Health Science, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Queensland 4217, Australia.



To assess factors affecting competency development of the Australian public health nutrition workforce and investigate competency development intentions, barriers and self-reported training needs.


Cross-sectional study using self-administered mail- or email-delivered questionnaire.


Two hundred and forty practitioners working in designated community and public health nutrition positions in the Australian health system.


An 87% questionnaire response rate was achieved. The profile of the sample included female practitioners (95%) within the age range of 26-45 years (67%), from dietetic backgrounds (75%) and employed in state health departments as community dietitians/nutritionists (52%) or public health nutritionists (32%). Only 14% had completed higher degree qualifications but most (80%) reported an intention to do so in the future. Entry-level dietetic education was considered by most respondents (57%) to be inadequate preparation for public health nutrition practice but considered it had utility as a precursor for public health nutrition competency development because of its strong grounding in nutrition knowledge, basic research skills and problem-solving. On-the-job learning was the most prominent competency development influence reported by this workforce. Flexibility in teaching and learning approaches is needed to facilitate workforce participation in further competency development. The main competency development needs focused on analytical and policy process competencies; however, there was a general need expressed for competency development across many competency areas.


These data provide intelligence to inform public health nutrition workforce development, particularly that relating to continued professional development amongst the existing workforce.

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