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J Public Health Manag Pract. 2014 Nov-Dec;20(6):647-53. doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000046.

A systematic approach to evaluating public health training: the obesity prevention in public health course.

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Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (Mss Mainor, Sommers, and Gonzales and Drs Leeman and Ammerman) and School of Nursing (Dr Leeman), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia (Ms Heiser and Dr Farris).



Public health practitioners require new knowledge and skills to address the multilevel factors contributing to obesity. This article presents the systematic approach the Center of Excellence for Training and Research Translation (Center TRT) used both to assess practitioners' competencies to lead public health obesity prevention initiatives and to evaluate its annual, competency-based obesity prevention course.


In 2006, Center TRT identified priority public health competencies for obesity prevention and then planned 7 annual courses to address the priority competencies progressively over time. Each year, a longitudinal evaluation based on Kirkpatrick's training evaluation framework was administered to course participants (n = 243) to assess perceptions of the course (daily), changes in self-reported competency (immediately pre- and postcourse), and course impact on practice over time (at 6 months).


Participants rated the course highly for quality and relevance. Although many participants reported low levels of confidence prior to the course, following the course, at least 70% reported feeling confident to perform almost all competencies. At 6-month follow-up, the majority of participants reported completing at least 1 activity identified during course action planning.


We identified practitioners' high-priority competency needs and then designed 7 annual courses to progressively address those needs and new needs as they arose. This approach resulted in trainings valued by practitioners and effective in increasing their sense of competence to lead public health obesity prevention initiatives. The course's continuing impact was evidenced by participants' high level of completion of their action plans at 6-month follow-up. Competency-based training is important to develop a skilled public health workforce.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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