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Online Training Programs Aim to Develop a Skilled Public Health Workforce

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Approximately 8,600 individuals comprise the public health workforce in New York City and surrounding counties. These workers provide crucial health services - vaccines, mental health counseling, prenatal care - to underserved communities in a diverse population of over 12 million people.

But these crucial services are at risk due to a crisis in the public health workforce, both nationally and in the NYC region: few workers have had formal education in public health, and a large proportion is eligible to retire in the next several years.

Two public health institutions, the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the State University of New York at Stony Brook's Graduate Program in Public Health, teamed up to tackle this problem. The result is the New York City-Long Island-Lower Tri-County Public Health Training Center (known as the PHTC), a project dedicated to providing high-quality, accessible continuing education for public health workers.


The PHTC, in collaboration with the New York State Department of Health, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the five county health departments of Suffolk, Nassau, Westchester, Rockland and Putnam Counties, has four goals: asses training needs, develop high-quality online and face-to-face continuing education programs, support public health internships, and develop public health student and faculty collaborative projects.

Through a grant awarded by the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Center was established in September 2011 as one of thirty-seven PHTCs nationally. Marita Murrman, associate professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and director of the school’s Certificate in Health Promotion Research and Practice, is the principal investigator for the grant and the project’s leader.

Marita Murman, principal investigator for the New York City-Long Island-Lower Tri-County PHTC, speaking about the project

The Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning was brought in to develop a website for the PHTC that provides a training catalog; online courses; and a personalized dashboard that allows users to tracks their progress through trainings, print and store certificates of completion, and request continuing education credits.

In addition, CCNMTL’s staff worked closely with experts from Mailman to create six courses on research skills and evaluating the effectiveness of public health programs. Two of the courses were launched in 2012, and four new courses were recently added.

"We were very excited to work CCNMTL to build our online training programs,” said Murrman. “Their expertise in educational technology and design was critical to the development process and ensured that the trainings we created are educational, interactive, effective in teaching the material."