Commentary: ASPHER at age 50

European Journal of Public Health, Feb 2017

Perry, Ivan J.

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Commentary: ASPHER at age 50

The European Journal of Public Health 0 Ivan J. Perry Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College Cork , Western Gateway Building . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Commentary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . - The Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region (ASPHER) was established as a WHO initiative at a symposium in Ankara in October 1966 and in 2016 the association produced a 50th Anniversary book: 50 Years of Professional Public Health Workforce Development.1 From modest beginnings as a ?private club? with a small number of member schools and an annual budget of $1500, ASPHER has become one of the key independent public health organizations in Europe with 112 members from 43 countries, 14 associate members from North America, Africa, Israel, Palestine, Japan and Australia and a budget in excess of $100 000 per annum. The book?s title reflects ASPHER?s core focus on strengthening the role of public health in Europe through improvement and standardization of education and training of public health professionals for practice and research at all levels including undergraduate bachelor level, Masters in Public Health (MPH), PhD and continuing professional development. At its core ASPHER promotes the concept of public health as a distinct and clearly delineated profession in Europe with competencies that are both well aligned with the health needs of the population and appropriately deployed in diverse settings. In support of this agenda, ASPHER has worked with the WHO and other partners on a broad range of issues including the development of peer review accreditation processes for Schools of Public Health in Europe and critical work on the development of lists of core competencies for public health practice linked to essential public health operations. In the European Commission?s 2016 EU Health Policy Platform, ASPHER will lead on public health workforce development and professionalization. With four editors and 38 contributors, the 50th Anniversary Book is organized in three volumes addressing the history and strategy of ASPHER, the development of Schools of Public Health (with contributions from 17 Schools from Austria to the USA) and a series of reflections from past presidents and Stampar Medallists on public health workforce developments over half a century. Although the format of the book is somewhat unwieldy and uninviting and there is significant redundancy and unevenness across the large group of contributors, there are insights and gems that lead one to commend this book to a wide audience. Anders Foldspang sets out a clear and compelling case for the establishment and recognition of a public health profession in Europe with defined competencies, responsibility for defined populations and embedded within comprehensive and holistic national, regional and local public health systems. It is clear that public health cannot be confined to a single professional group (however welldefined and trained) and there is a need to infiltrate all areas of society with core public health concepts and values. ASPHER?s vision for the public health workforce also encompasses the involvement of health professionals with more limited public health responsibilities and the widespread provision of public health training outside health systems at all levels from ?high level decision makers?politicians and civil servants to policemen in the street and teachers in the classroom?. Volume II on the development of schools off public health, with contributions from across Europe, Israel, Palestine and the USA, highlights the unevenness and fragility of the public health movement in Europe and beyond. It is salutary to compare countries such as the UK and the Nordic Countries?with flourishing schools of Public Health?with (to take one example) Austria, where the first postgraduate master programme in Public Health did not start until 2002. In many countries (and not just in Eastern Europe) public health remains in thrall to medicine, and we lack the skills and confidence to access the levers of power and influence in society to effectively address (beyond the level of pious rhetoric) the key determinants of population health at local and national level. In the series of reflections on workforce developments over the past 50 years, Josep Figueras and Bernd Rechel reflect on the extent to which public health professionals have moved away from the traditional focus on hygiene, sanitation and infection control to embrace the broader New Public Health?? paradigm and more recently the Health in all Policies concept as articulated in the current European health policy framework, Health 2020. Martin McKee deftly summarizes the evolution of our understanding of population health and its determinants during this period, the emergence of multidisciplinary public health teams in response to this deeper understanding and the exciting opportunities for public health in the era of ?big data?. In short, ASPHER, at age 50 has a compelling story to tell. Although its 50th Anniversary Book falls well short of a definitive account of its mission and achievements, it provides an excellent ?first draft of history? that clarifies and enriches our understanding of current developments and trends in public health and sets out a detailed, practical and exciting vision for the future. 1 50 Years of Professional Public Health Workforce Development. ASPHER's 50th Anniversary Book . In: Foldspang A , Mu? ller -Nordhorn J , Bjegovic-Mikanovic V , Otok R , editors. The Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region (ASPHER) , 2016 . Available at: http://aspher.org/download/80/anniversarybook-may2016. pdf .


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Perry, Ivan J.. Commentary: ASPHER at age 50, European Journal of Public Health, 2017, 3, DOI: 10.1093/eurpub/ckx004