Background: PH WINS (Public Health Workforce Interest and Needs Survey) is a survey of state and selected local public health department workers, conducted by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and the de Beaumont Foundation that identified priority areas and needs for workforce development, including “Communicating Persuasively.”
Program background: In 2015 the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC), a membership organization comprising individuals who shape, spread or evaluate public health messages introduced its Certified Communicator in Public Health (CCPH) credential following a pilot and two beta tests. The program’s goal is to push the field forward and foster professional excellence through assessment of practice-based skills and a commitment to continuing competence. NPHIC is a member of ASTHO’s Affiliate Council, which helped inform PH WINS. Among preliminary PH WINS findings is that approximately 75% of respondents considered “important” the ability to communicate information in a way different audiences can understand; most felt they had such skills. However, 20% of individuals who work in programs that deal with “non-communicable disease” are unable to communicate in a way that persuades others to act, or are at a beginner level, as are 17.9% of those who work in Health Promotion/Wellness. PH WINS data also revealed that 20% of respondents need help addressing the needs of diverse communities in a culturally sensitive way, although almost half considered the ability to do so very important. NPHIC’s CCPH program calls upon public health communicators, to—among other competencies—“Influence individuals and communities by using media, community resources and social marketing techniques” and, along with related cultural competence skills, “Respect a wide range of differences among intended audiences.” The latter correlates to the PH WINS skill: “Addressing the needs of diverse communities in a culturally sensitive way.” 60% of respondents who are Public Information Specialists said this skill is very important, but nearly 27% also said they were either at the beginner level, or unable to do this at all. For Public Health Managers/Program Managers the numbers are 61% and 20.4%, respectively, indicating professional development is essential in this area.
Evaluation Methods and Results: Preliminary PH WINS data provided by ASTHO were used to compare workforce development needs relevant to persuasive communication with the CCPH competencies and skillsets that health communicators must demonstrate in order to become certified.
Conclusions: Persuasive communication is an underpinning of “precaution advocacy,” i.e., public health efforts directed towards lifestyle choices and behavior change that reduce the risk of illness, injury or premature death. There is a nexus between identified PH WINS workforce development needs related to persuasive communication and the skills required to earn the CCPH credential.
Implications for research and/or practice: Certification could incentivize public health communicators to acquire or augment their capacity to perform the competencies/skills needed to earn the CCPH credential and thus address needs identified by PH WINS to enhance professional development.