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School of Public Health
School of Public Health

University of Washington School of Public Health

Competencies for All Degrees

The following competencies reflect the current draft of those to be finalized by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) in October 2016. These will be addressed by SPH program-specific curriculum and activities for future students.

All SPH Students

Competencies for all SPH students, regardless of degree program

UW SPH Core Competencies
  • Distinguish between individual and population health.
  • Apply evidence-based decision making and critical thinking to public health problems.
  • Communicate effectively and persuasively, both orally and in writing.
  • Recognize the means by which social inequities and racism, generated by power and privilege, undermine health.
Foundational Public Health Knowledge
  • Explain public health history, philosophy and values.
  • Identify the core functions of public health and the 10 Essential Services.
  • Discuss concepts of prevention at all levels, including health promotion, screening, etc.
  • Explain effects of environmental factors on human health.
  • Explain biological and genetic factors that impact human health.
  • Explain behavioral and psychological factors that impact human health.
  • Explain the social determinants of health and health inequities.
  • Explain the impact of globalization and the global burden of disease.
  • Explain a One-Health, ecological perspective on the connections among human health, animal health and ecosystem health.
All Student Except for MPH Students
  • Explain population-based study design methods.
  • Explain the organization and structure of domestic health care and public health systems, including access, financing and quality.


Competencies for all undergraduate students, regardless of degree program:

  • Compare and contrast prevention vs. treatment and health vs. healthcare.
  • Discuss the determinants of health and illness and the contribution health care and public health make to the health status of the population with particular attention to inequities in and among populations.
  • Describe the history and structure of public health systems.
  • Describe the role of advocacy and civic engagement in public health.
  • Practice teamwork, interdisciplinary collaboration, and community partnerships.

Masters of Public Health

All MPH programs, regardless of department or track, share a common set of core MPH competencies, that include competencies in biostatistics, environmental and occupational health sciences, epidemiology, health services (health administration and policy),  and social and behavioral sciences.

Generic competencies for all MPH students

Profession and Science of Public Health Knowledge
1. Use the science of epidemiology to describe and assess a population’s health
2. List major causes and trends of morbidity and mortality in the US or other community relevant to the school/program
3. Explain the use of informatics in public health
4. Identify strategies for promoting health equity

Evidence-based Approaches to Public Health Competencies
5. Choose data collection methods
6. Interpret data analysis
7. Analyze quantitative and qualitative data
8. Integrate evidence, including identifying appropriate data sources and using informatics, to describe a public health issue
9. Apply epidemiological methods appropriate for population-based inquiry

Public Health & Health Care Systems
10. Compare the organization, structure and function of health care and public health systems across domestic and non-domestic settings

Program Planning & Management  
11. Apply awareness of cultural values and practices to the design or implementation of public health programs
12. Design a population-based project, program or intervention, including defining populations, assessing and prioritizing their needs, selecting appropriate frameworks and  identifying and managing available resources  
13. Explain basic principles of resource management including human, fiscal and material
14. Select program evaluation methods
Policy in Public Health
15. Assess multiple dimensions of the policy making process, including ethical considerations, the role of evidence and the impact of policies on public health and health equity
16. Apply coalition-building, persuasive communications and methods of negotiating with stakeholders, etc. to influence public health outcomes
17. Advocate for equity within public health programs, policies and systems for diverse populations

18. Apply principles of effective management and leadership, including fostering collaboration, guiding decision making, creating a vision and motivating others

19. Apply principles of team development and roles and practices of effective teams, including methods to address inequity or power imbalances in a team, institutional, community or other system

20. Choose appropriate strategies for communicating a public health issue to various audiences, including stakeholders at all levels and sectors
21. Write technical or professional papers on public health issues
22. Deliver oral presentations on public health issues
Inter-professional Practice
23. Perform effectively on inter-professional teams

Systems Thinking
20. Apply systems thinking tools to a public health issue

Practicum Experience
24. Demonstrate competency attainment through applied practice experiences in appropriate sites outside of academic and classroom settings

Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences competencies for all MPH Students

  • Specify the major chemical, microbial, and physical health hazards found in air, water, food, soil, and wastes, and describe their principal effects on health.
  • Describe basic strategies for identifying, evaluating, preventing, and controlling exposures to health and safety hazards in environmental and occupational settings.
  • Describe methods for assessing health risk and identifying acceptable levels of risk associated with environmental and occupational hazards.
  • Describe the potential influence of biological, behavioral, socioeconomic, political, and cultural factors on environmental and occupational health risks.
  • Identify major environmental and occupational health problems associated with morbidity and mortality, in industrialized countries and in developing countries.
  • Describe potential impacts of demographic change, economic development, built environments, environmental pollution, and climate and ecosystem change on health, food security, and water resources.
  • Describe major regulations, policies, and institutions involved in controlling or mitigating environmental and occupational health risks.
  • Discuss the importance of environmental justice and sustainability in addressing problems related to the environment and health.
  • Communicate information to a target audience about environmental and occupational health risks, influential factors, and prevention strategies, and anticipate or identify risk perceptions and relevant concerns in the target audience.

Epidemiology competencies for all MPH Students

  • Define and appraise the health status of populations, determinants of health and illness, factors contributing to health promotion and disease prevention, and factors influencing the use of health services.
  • Evaluate the integrity and comparability of data and identify gaps in data sources.
  • Define and calculate measures of disease frequency and measures of association between risk factors and disease.
  • Describe the major epidemiologic research study designs and their advantages and limitations.
  • Describe the major sources of bias in epidemiologic research (confounding, selection bias, and measurement error) and the ways to evaluate and reduce bias.
  • Apply guidelines to support whether an association is causal.
  • List and define the basic terms and methods used in outbreak investigation, infectious disease epidemiology, chronic disease epidemiology, disease prevention trials, and evaluation of screening tests.
  • Appropriately select and use modern information technology tools to identify, locate, access, assess, and use health information and data to inform public health decision-making.
  • Critically review the relevant scientific literature, synthesize the findings across studies, and make appropriate public health recommendations based on current knowledge.
  • Interpret results of an epidemiologic study, including the relation to findings from other epidemiologic studies, the potential biological and/or social mechanisms, the limitations of the study, and the public health implications.
  • Explain the importance of epidemiology for informing scientific, ethical, economic, and political discussions of health issues.
  • Recognize the basic ethical and legal principles pertaining to the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of epidemiologic data.
  • Communicate epidemiologic information to lay and professional audiences.
  • Apply epidemiologic skills in a U.S. or global public health setting, specifically in the formulation or application of public health programs or policies.

Health Services (Health Administration and Policy) competencies for all MPH Students

  • Describe how the health care and public health systems contribute to the public’s health and to the intermediate goals of equity, efficiency, and effectiveness.
  • Describe the history, components, organization, and operation of the health care and public health systems.
  • Explain how the structure and functioning of health systems affect its performance.
  • Discuss the determinants of health and illness and the contribution health care and public health make to the health status of the population with particular attention to inequities in and among populations.
  • Describe the major public policy issues that affect health and health care.
  • Describe the major strengths and weaknesses of the health care and public health systems and their underlying causes.
  • Illustrate how health care and population health interventions can be better integrated.
  • Identify and evaluate the major challenges facing a health system and identify alternative approaches to improving the system’s performance.
  • Describe the pros and cons of health care financing strategies and programs that can be achieved through either government or private mechanisms, and illustrate using either domestic or international examples.
  • Explain how socioeconomic, political, behavioral, and biological factors can determine health and disease and how this knowledge can be used to assess population health and develop strategies for disease prevention and health promotion.
  • Articulate the health status of the United States in comparison to other countries over the past several decades.

Social and Behavioral Sciences competencies for all MPH Students

  • Describe the key components of core theories and models of behavior and behavior change, and assess how these theories apply to specific public health problems that are influenced by individual, community, institutional, and societal determinants;
  • Outline and explain a conceptual model of the factors affecting population health and health inequalities, define the individual-level and contextual-level social determinants of population health and health inequalities in the conceptual model, and explain their relationships and potential mechanisms of influence.
  • Apply evidence and theory-based approaches in developing social and behavioral science interventions to improve individual and population health and reduce health inequalities.
  • Specify multiple targets and levels of intervention for social and behavioral science interventions and policies.
  • Identify and describe health promotion principles and strategies for designing programs to improve health care using U.S. and/or international public health systems
  • Identify and describe a community: its demography, culture, formal and informal organizations, interactions, leadership, relevant stakeholders, physical attributes, and how the community views itself.
  • Define cultural competency as it applies to working with diverse individuals, organizations, and health care and public health systems and communities.
  • Identify and describe tools to assess and improve organizational and community assets and resources, and explain their application in addressing health needs.
  • Describe strategies for collaborating with communities in assessing health needs, designing and implementing programs to address these needs, evaluating program outcomes, promoting community health, and conducting research (e.g., community based participatory research).

Masters of Health Administration

Upon satisfactory completion of the MHA degree programs, graduates will have developed managerial, financial and leadership competencies in the following areas:

  • Accountability: The ability to hold people accountable to standards of performance or ensure compliance using the power of one’s position or force of personality appropriately and effectively, with the long-term good of the organization in mind.
  • Achievement Orientation: A concern for surpassing a standard of excellence.
  • Analytical Thinking: The ability to understand a situation, issue, or problem by breaking it into smaller pieces or tracing its implications in a step-by-step way.
  • Change Leadership: The ability to energize stakeholders and sustain their commitment to changes in approaches, processes, and strategies.
  • Collaboration: The ability to work cooperatively with others, to be part of a team, to work together, as opposed to working separately or competitively.
  • Communication Skills: The ability to speak and write in a clear, logical, and grammatical manner in formal and informal situations to prepare cogent business presentations, and to facilitate a group.
  • Community Orientation:  The ability to align one’s own and the organization’s priorities with the needs and values of the community, including its cultural and ethnocentric values and to move health forward in line with population-based wellness needs and national health agenda.
  • Financial Skills:  The ability to understand and explain financial and accounting information, prepare and manage budgets, and make sound long-term investment decisions.
  • Human Resources Management:  The ability to implement staff development and other management practices that represent contemporary best practices, comply with legal and regulatory requirements, optimize the performance of the workforce, including performance assessments, alternative compensation and benefit methods, and the  alignment of human resource practices and processes to meet the strategic goals of the organization.
  • Impact and Influence The ability to persuade, convince, influence, or impress others (individuals or groups) in order to get them to go along with or to support one’s opinion or position.
  • Information Seeking:  An underlying curiosity and desire to know more about things, people, or issues, including the desire for knowledge and staying current with health, organizational, industry, and professional trends and developments.
  • Information Technology Management:  The ability to see the potential in and understand the use of administrative and clinical technology and decision-support tools in process and performance improvement.
  • Initiative:  Identifying a problem, obstacle, or opportunity and taking action in light of this identification to address current or future problems or opportunities.
  • Innovative Thinking: The ability to apply complex concepts, develop creative solutions, or adapt previous solutions in new ways for breakthrough thinking in the field.
  • Interpersonal Understanding:  The ability to understand other people as well as to accurately hear and understand the unspoken or partly expressed thoughts, feelings, and concerns of others.
  • Organizational Awareness:  The ability to understand and learn the formal and informal decision-making structures and power relationships in an organization or industry (e.g., stakeholders, suppliers).
  • Performance Measurement:  The ability to understand and use statistical and financial methods and metrics to set goals and measure clinical as well as organizational performance; commitment to and employment of evidence-based techniques.
  • Process Management and Organizational Design: The ability to analyze and design or improve an organizational process, including incorporating the principles of quality management as well as customer satisfaction.
  • Professionalism: The demonstration of ethics, sound professional practices, social accountability, and community stewardship.
  • Project Management: The ability to plan, execute, and oversee a multi-year, large-scale project involving significant resources, scope, and impact.
  • Relationship Building: The ability to establish, build, and sustain professional contacts for the purpose of building networks of people with similar goals and that support similar interests.
  • Self-Confidence:  A belief in one’s own capability to accomplish a task and select an effective approach to a task or problem.
  • Self-Development: The ability to have an accurate view of one’s own strengths and development needs, including the impact that one has on others.
  • Strategic Orientation:  The ability to consider the business, demographic, ethno-cultural, political, and regulatory implications of decisions and develop strategies that continually improve the long-term success and viability of the organization.
  • Talent Development: The drive to build the breadth and depth of the organization’s human capability and professionalism, including supporting top-performing people and taking a personal interest in coaching and mentoring high-potential leaders.
  • Team Leadership: Sees oneself as a leader of others, from forming a team that possesses balanced capabilities to setting its mission, values, and norms, as well as to holding the team members accountable individually and as a group for results.

Competencies for specific programs can be found on the program detail pages.

revised May 2016