Interdisciplinary/Cross-cutting Competencies

These core competencies are identified by the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH) as “interdisciplinary/cross-cutting competencies.” As opposed to “discipline-specific” competencies of biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health sciences, health policy and management, and social and behavioral sciences, these competencies do not teach a particular subject. Rather, they are a series of principles and attributes that an effective Masters of Public Health program should instill:competencies that demonstrate a well-rounded, fully prepared public health professional.


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They are “cross-cutting” because their values should permeate all courses during your public health education. Some MPH programs offer classes in some of the interdisciplinary competencies, such as a class in diversity and culture or systems thinking. Whether or not you take specific classes in these domains, or general public health classes fortified by these domains, you should graduate from an MPH program able to demonstrate the following competencies defined by ASPH.

Communication and Informatics: Collect, manage and organize data to produce information and meaning that is exchanged by use of signs and symbols; to gather, process, and present information to different audiences in-person, through information technologies, or through media channels; and to strategically design the information and knowledge exchange process to achieve specific objectives.

  • Describe how the public health information infrastructure is used to collect, process, maintain, and disseminate data.
  • Describe how societal, organizational, and individual factors influence and are influenced by public health communications.
  • Discuss the influences of social, organizational and individual factors on the use of information technology by end users.
  • Apply theory and strategy-based communication principles across different settings and audiences.
  • Apply legal and ethical principles to the use of information technology and resources in public health settings.
  • Collaborate with communication and informatics specialists in the process of design, implementation, and evaluation of public health programs.
  • Demonstrate effective written and oral skills for communicating with different audiences in the context of professional public health activities.
  • Use information technology to access, evaluate, and interpret public health data.
  • Use informatics methods and resources as strategic tools to promote public health.
  • Use informatics and communication methods to advocate for community public health programs and policies.

Diversity and Culture: Interact with both diverse individuals and communities to produce or impact an intended public health outcome.

  • Describe the roles of, history, power, privilege and structural inequality in producing health disparities.
  • Explain how professional ethics and practices relate to equity and accountability in diverse community settings.
  • Explain why cultural competence alone cannot address health disparity.
  • Discuss the importance and characteristics of a sustainable diverse public health workforce.
  • Use the basic concepts and skills involved in culturally appropriate community engagement and empowerment with diverse communities.
  • Apply the principles of community-based participatory research to improve health in diverse populations.
  • Differentiate among availability, acceptability, and accessibility of health care across diverse populations.
  • Differentiate between linguistic competence, cultural competency, and health literacy in public health practice.
  • Cite examples of situations where consideration of culture-specific needs resulted in a more effective modification or adaptation of a health intervention.
  • Develop public health programs and strategies responsive to the diverse cultural values and traditions of the communities being served.

Leadership: The ability to create and communicate a shared vision for a changing future; champion solutions to organizational and community challenges; and energize commitment to goals.

  • Describe the attributes of leadership in public health.
  • Describe alternative strategies for collaboration and partnership among organizations, focused on public health goals.
  • Articulate an achievable mission, set of core values, and vision.
  • Engage in dialogue and learning from others to advance public health goals.
  • Demonstrate team building, negotiation, and conflict management skills.
  • Demonstrate transparency, integrity, and honesty in all actions.
  • Use collaborative methods for achieving organizational and community health goals.
  • Apply social justice and human rights principles when addressing community needs.
  • Develop strategies to motivate others for collaborative problem solving, decision-making, and evaluation.

Public Health Biology: Incorporate public health biology – the biological and molecular context of public health – into public health practice.

  • Specify the role of the immune system in population health.
  • Describe how behavior alters human biology.
  • Identify the ethical, social and legal issues implied by public health biology.
  • Explain the biological and molecular basis of public health.
  • Explain the role of biology in the ecological model of population-based health.
  • Explain how genetics and genomics affect disease processes and public health policy and practice.
  • Articulate how biological, chemical and physical agents affect human health.
  • Apply biological principles to development and implementation of disease prevention, control, or management programs.
  • Apply evidence-based biological and molecular concepts to inform public health laws, policies, and regulations.
  • Integrate general biological and molecular concepts into public health.

Professionalism: Demonstrate ethical choices, values and professional practices implicit in public health decisions; consider the effect of choices on community stewardship, equity, social justice and accountability; and to commit to personal and institutional development.

  • Discuss sentinel events in the history and development of the public health profession and their relevance for practice in the field.
  • Apply basic principles of ethical analysis (e.g. the Public Health Code of Ethics, human rights framework, other moral theories) to issues of public health practice and policy.
  • Apply evidence-based principles and the scientific knowledge base to critical evaluation and decision-making in public health.
  • Apply the core functions of assessment, policy development, and assurance in the analysis of public health problems and their solutions.
  • Promote high standards of personal and organizational integrity, compassion, honesty and respect for all people.
  • Analyze determinants of health and disease using an ecological framework.
  • Analyze the potential impacts of legal and regulatory environments on the conduct of ethical public health research and practice.
  • Distinguish between population and individual ethical considerations in relation to the benefits, costs, and burdens of public health programs.
  • Embrace a definition of public health that captures the unique characteristics of the field (e.g., population-focused, community-oriented, prevention-motivated and rooted in social justice) and how these contribute to professional practice.
  • Appreciate the importance of working collaboratively with diverse communities and constituencies (e.g. researchers, practitioners, agencies and organizations).
  • Value commitment to lifelong learning and professional service including active participation in professional organizations.

Program Planning: Plan for the design, development, implementation, and evaluation of strategies to improve individual and community health.

  • Describe how social, behavioral, environmental, and biological factors contribute to specific individual and community health outcomes.
  • Describe the tasks necessary to assure that program implementation occurs as intended.
  • Explain how the findings of a program evaluation can be used.
  • Explain the contribution of logic models in program development, implementation, and evaluation.
  • Differentiate among goals, measurable objectives, related activities, and expected outcomes for a public health program.
  • Differentiate the purposes of formative, process, and outcome evaluation.
  • Differentiate between qualitative and quantitative evaluation methods in relation to their strengths, limitations, and appropriate uses, and emphases on reliability and validity.
  • Prepare a program budget with justification.
  • In collaboration with others, prioritize individual, organizational, and community concerns and resources for public health programs.
  • Assess evaluation reports in relation to their quality, utility, and impact on public health.

Systems Thinking: Recognize system level properties that result from dynamic interactions among human and social systems and how they affect the relationships among individuals, groups, organizations, communities, and environments.

  • Identify characteristics of a system.
  • Identify unintended consequences produced by changes made to a public health system.
  • Provide examples of feedback loops and “stocks and flows” within a public health system.
  • Explain how systems (e.g. individuals, social networks, organizations, and communities) may be viewed as systems within systems in the analysis of public health problems.
  • Explain how systems models can be tested and validated.
  • Explain how the contexts of gender, race, poverty, history, migration, and culture are important in the design of interventions within public health systems.
  • Illustrate how changes in public health systems (including input, processes, and output) can be measured.
  • Analyze inter-relationships among systems that influence the quality of life of people in their communities.
  • Analyze the effects of political, social and economic policies on public health systems at the local, state, national and international levels.
  • Analyze the impact of global trends and interdependencies on public health related problems and systems.
  • Assess strengths and weaknesses of applying the systems approach to public health problems.