The federal government has awarded nearly $3.4 million to be doled out over the next four years to the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health to establish one of 10 public health training centers across the nation with the hopes of improving national health.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) selected Pitt to create the Region 3 Center, which will provide free training sessions to public health professionals in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Margaret Potter, principal investigator and director of the center, said it will be open to all health professionals.
“Even if it’s not a formal health agency, like the Allegheny County Health Department for example, there are folks who are interested in the kinds of learning that we can provide them with,” Potter said.
The center is expected to offer a variety of classes and personalized training sessions on topics ranging from the implementation of computer programs designed to track the spread of infectious diseases to the development of targeted health plans.
But Potter said the center’s first priority will be understanding health professionals’ needs.
“We’ll talk to employers. ‘How do you want to upgrade the skills of your workforce?’” she said. “And we’ll even talk with public health leaders at the state and national level and get their advice about what the overall public health workforce needs to develop.”
Pitt Public Health has served as Pennsylvania’s training center for nearly 15 years, but will now oversee training sites at Drexel University, Johns Hopkins University, West Virginia University and the Virginia Department of Public Health.
The Region 3 Public Health Training Center will also run health informatics training sessions nationwide using technologies developed by Pitt that assist public health professionals make decisions based on real-world data.
“Local public health departments collect a treasure trove of data,” Potter said in a written statement. “However, they often don’t have time, personnel or resources to turn that data into useful information that will inform their work.”
Potter said this network of public health training centers will strive to make a positive impact on national health.
“All of this training and workforce development ultimately improves the health of the overall population, but that’s hard to measure and that’s long and coming,” she said. “So, more immediately we’re interested in really improving the performance of these workers.”