Public health competences through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic: what matters for health workforce preparedness for global health emergencies

K. Czabanowska*, E. Kuhlmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Web of Science)


The COVID-19 pandemic is raising new questions on public health competences and leadership and on health workforce preparedness for global public health emergencies. The present commentary aims to highlight demand and opportunities for innovation through the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 crisis. We review the public health competency framework recently launched by WHO and ASPHER through the lens of COVID-19. The framework provides guidance for aligning public health and global health competences across sectors and professional groups. Five critical competency areas can be identified in relation to public health emergencies: (1) flexibility, adaptation, motivation, communication, (2) research, analytical sensitivity, ethics, diversity, (3) epidemiology, (4) preparedness and (5) employability. However, this may not be enough. New models of public health leadership and changes in the health workforce are needed, which transform the silos of professions and policy. Such transformations would include learning, working, leading and governing differently and must stretch far beyond the public health workforce. To achieve transformative capacity, critical public health competences must be considered for all healthcare workers on all levels of policymaking, thus becoming the 'heart' of health workforce resilience and pandemic preparedness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-19
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Health Planning and Management
Issue numberS1
Early online date17 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • 19
  • COVID&#8208
  • covid&#8208
  • healthcare workers
  • pandemic preparedness
  • public health competences
  • public health leadership
  • COVID-19

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