Dr. Erica Frank, MD, MPH, FAACME, recently attended a conference hosted by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) from the 11th until the 13th of October in Port of Spain, Trinidad, and Tobago. In attendance were Regional Advisors (HSS/HR), PAHO/WHO Department of Health Systems and Services (HSS) Advisors, Subregional Program Coordinator (SPC-CRB), various representatives from Caribbean countries, and health education specialists. The conference focused on Emerging Trends in Health Professions Education in Post-Pandemic Times as they seek to strengthen the role of Virtual Campus for Public Health (VCPH). VCPH is an educational platform launched by PAHO intended to continue to develop public health workers’ skills and competencies and bring about change to the public health services in the Region of the Americas. Presently, it has become a vital platform “for ongoing capacity-building and information-sharing for health professionals in the Region” and “has 1.8 million users and 3 million registrations for courses” (PAHO, 2022).
As the world grappled with the Covid-19 pandemic, public health education has taken on a new urgency that calls for a re-evaluation of plans for the future of health professional education. In a post-COVID-19 world, planning and developing quality undergraduate and graduate-level health science curriculums are necessary to meet this demand. Virtual public health education can help to equip people with the knowledge and skills needed to promote and protect the health of individuals and communities. This conference reinforced the urgency to strengthen the support to countries and subregions to achieve the institutionalization of the Nodes and ensure quality standards in their educational proposals through collaborative work among national authorities, universities, and PAHO. Some topics that were presented include the future of VCPH governance, strengthening the roles of accreditation and regulatory systems, the role of public health education post-COVID-19, and the retention of health sciences education in rural, remote, and underserved areas.
Dr. Erica Frank, an invited speaker, had the opportunity to share NextGenU.org’s mission which is intricately linked to the future of public health education as we prioritize the development of health sciences curricula and offer free certification for students globally. Our courses and programs are used in 128 countries and have been adopted by 75 U.S. medical schools, 140 U.S. universities, and over 350 universities globally. In collaboration with PAHO’s VCPH, we have developed a number of public health courses. These courses include Tobacco Control Legislation (with examples from the Caribbean) ,Evidence-based Journalism for Health, Tobacco Cessation (with examples from Caribbean Countries) and Public Health Leadership.
These courses include various modules with different learning components aiming to improve participants’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes pertinent to public health issues. Our Tobacco Cessation course utilizes examples from the Caribbean and provides participants with the tools for strengthening and implementing tobacco cessation services in Primary Health Care (PHC) settings. Similarly, our Tobacco Control Legislation course is based on the Pan American Health Organization’s “Manual for developing Tobacco Control draws on Legislation in the Caribbean” and draws on international case studies, as well as Caribbean experiences and legislative contexts.
It has been an honor to work with PAHO, the VCPH and their partners in bringing these courses to physicians, public health professionals, and legislators throughout the Caribbean. Making public health education a priority can help ensure that future generations are better prepared to deal with the challenges of a globalized world. The potential for public health education to be delivered virtually implies that it will reach a larger audience and significantly impact the overall health of our society. To achieve this potential, the conference underscored the importance of collaboration between all stakeholders, including public health educators and technology developers.
Photos by Ted Grudzinski
Pan American Health Organization. (2022). 30th PAN AMERICAN SANITARY CONFERENCE 74th SESSION OF THE REGIONAL COMMITTEE OF WHO FOR THE AMERICAS Provisional Agenda Item 3.2-A OD366 *. https://www.paho.org/sites/default/files/od366-e-quinquennial-report-director-paho-2018-2022-rep1_0.pdf