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U of T leading a new training program to strengthen Ontario’s public health workforce

October 9/2018

Public Health Training for Equitable Systems Change aims to improve professional skills in health equity, population health assessment and effective public health practice

Earlier this spring, the University of Toronto received a $1-million Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Health-and Well-Being grant to support a comprehensive training program to improve the knowledge, skills and performance of Ontario’s public health workforce.

The training program, Public Health Training for Equitable Systems Change (PHESC), is a collaboration between the Dalla Lana School of Public Health (DLSPH), the Alliance for Healthier Communities, National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools, National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health, Ontario Public Health Association, Public Health Ontario, Wellesley Institute, and the National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy.

Erica Di Ruggiero

Erica Di Ruggiero

“The public health landscape has changed significantly in the last decade, resulting in a stronger focus on the upstream factors that influence health and health equity,” said Erica Di Ruggiero, PHESC lead and Director of DLSPH’s Office of Global Public Health Education & Training.

“Public health practitioners are tackling incredibly complex challenges ranging from an increased burden of chronic disease to health inequities affecting people living in urban, rural or remote areas. This training will provide frontline workers, middle managers, senior leadership and board members with a deeper understanding of foundational areas of public health practice, ultimately resulting in a healthier population,” said Di Ruggiero, who is also an Assistant Professor of Social and Behavioural Health Sciences.

The PHESC team spent the summer reviewing existing training needs assessments, conducting a literature review, and consulting with Ontario’s public health units to better understand training best practices and priority training needs for Ontario’s public health workforce.

“Public health agencies will find this to be a timely and efficient approach to supporting the implementation of the newest set of Ontario Public Health Standards,” said Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, Medical Officer of Health for Peterborough Public Health and member of PHESC’s program advisory committee.

“Having access to evidence-based, centralized training and supports will enable public health agencies to provide a stronger and more consistent approach across the province. The barriers to changing upstream factors that contribute to health inequities, that we all experience as professionals, are so well-entrenched and complex that this consistency will improve both our focus and our impact,” said Salvaterra.

This fall, the PHESC team will begin developing, implementing and evaluating a training program for public health professionals with guidance from a Program Advisory Committee.

Training will be structured around three of the four new public health foundational standards — health equity, population health assessment and effective public health practice — and delivered through a combination of online and in-person workshops, seminars, and short courses. One of the priority training areas is Indigenous cultural safety, and health equity is an overarching priority for the entire training program.

“By creating sustainable training tools for public health professionals, we are supporting front-line staff and managers in driving organizational change across Ontario,” said Di Ruggiero.

PHESC is one of seven projects funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) through the two-year Health and Well-Being Grant.

For more information about the PHESC, please contact: or visit the website.

Banner image: PHESC Partners. Top Row (right to left): Kate Mulligan, Janet Dawson, Cindy Ochieng, Anya Archer, Andrea Bodkin, Olivier Bellefleur, Uttam Bajwa, Obadiah George.
Middle Row (right to left): Erica Di Ruggiero, Robyn Kalda, Susan Snelling, Charlotte Lombardo, Isha Berry, Rebecca Cheff, Ben Rempel.
Bottom Row (right to left): Connie Clement, Candace Aqui, Sume Ndumbe-Eyoh, Heidi Schaeffer, Nana Yanful.
Not present: Samiya Abdi, Atik Bird, Susan Bondy, Maureen Dobbins, Karen Gough, Marianne Jacques, Faith Layden, Angela Mashford-Pringle, Jennifer Rayner.