on May 23, 2011 by in Learning and Development Evaluation, Comments (0)

Experiences of a Public Health Intelligence Learning and Development Programme

Enhancing Public Health Intelligence Skills in North West England

Author: Georgina Moulton (georgina.moulton@manchester.ac.uk)

The Programme

In August 2009, NorthWest e-Health (NWeH) was approached to by the Greater Manchester Public Health Intelligence Network with the proposal of delivering a comprehensive Public Health Intelligence Training Programme for public health analysts and the related workforce.

The course was delivered between October 2009 and July 2010 in conjunction with GM PHI Network, Northwest Centre for Transformation in Health and Wellbeing and the three regional Public Health Networks.

The programme aims to aid the development of the attendee’s careers by providing them with the tools, skills and knowledge required to provide robust public health intelligence.

Based on the HealthKnowledge Training Framework, the course supported the professional development of practitioners against the Public Health Skills and Career Framework for information and intelligence staff; and Competency 5 in the World Class Commissioning Competencies.

The programme consisted of 16 stand-alone modules: 8 core programme modules that formed the backbone of skills for all intelligence and information practitioners; and 8 specialist modules that were targeted at managers (see table 1 for titles).  The 8 core modules addressed two levels: (1) foundation practitioners who are new to intelligence and information and also colleagues in the wider workforce who require a basic understanding of public health intelligence and information for user in their work (e.g., commissioners, service development leads and performance leads); and (2) intermediate and advanced practitioners who often lead public health teams.

Module Title
Core Modules Specialist Modules
Introduction to Public Health, Public Health Intelligence and Epidemiology Databases and Structured Query Language
Statistics and Data Resources: part I Understanding Clinical Coding
Statistics and Data Resources: part II Team Working and Team Building Essentials
Applied Public Health Intelligence Leadership and Management
Advanced Policy and Strategy
Communication Skills for an Effective Analyst Prioritisation and Performance Management
Statistics II GIS and Mapping in Health
Surveys and Modelling Introduction to Predictive Modelling for Health
Applied Public Health Intelligence

Each module was delivered as a face-to-face workshop on three separate occasions to 25 persons.  Each module was delivered as a combination of lecture-style talks, discussions and group case-study work.  The ratio of each style in each module depended very much on the contributions made and the topic in focus.  The material was delivered by persons in the community either from academia or the healthcare Public Health and Commissioning Communities.



The greatest challenge was to provide a comprehensive programme that would address the needs of a diverse audience.  It is well documented that the PHI and PH communities are comprised of persons from a wide variety of backgrounds ranging from clinical and nursing to statistics to psychology.  There is no standard route of entry into the profession, thus the levels of knowledge vary greatly.

In the main, the course was a success and we did meet the needs of the community.  98% of people would recommend the courses to their colleagues.  It is clear from the feedback that from each course the main messages were understood and there was something that they had newly learned.

Programme content and delivery

The delivery and facilitation of the programme was a partnership between the PH community and the University.  This worked well as the well discussed disconnect between academia and other organizations did not occur.

The content of the programme had followed the HealthKnowledge syllabus that had been commissioned by the Department of Health.  Templates for courses and content were available for download and were modified to deliver the programme.  In many cases contributors spoke about their own work with reference to the key topic.  This was particularly useful as the audience were based in the North West.  In other cases, especially in the more advanced modules, academic research methodologies and tools were introduced, so as to expose the audience to current thinking in a research environment, and allow them to comment on the work in relation to their own experiences.  The e-Laboratory talk by Professor Iain Buchan received much positive feedback and is now being developed specifically for the PH and PHI communities.

Due to the demand from the public health analysts for more advanced skills training, the programme started with the four advanced modules.  The foundation modules and the specialist modules were then delivered in succession.  This did not suit the delivery of the programme content as some persons may have been able to attend the advanced modules had they previously attended the foundation ones.

Due to the tight timeframe that the programme had to be delivered, it was not possible to give a ‘Train the Trainers’ workshop for all speakers.  It would have been beneficial to run this prior to the programme for those contributors who had little experience in presenting work to others.

Programme Time Frame

A combination of resource both financial and time, dictated that each module could only be a day in length.  The core modules were to provide a backbone of knowledge for participants to explore in their own time more in-depth about the topics.  In many of the courses, feedback stated that attendees would have preferred more time to complete the course.  However, this was varied for each course, and did reflect the diversity in the level of knowledge.  For example, in the statistics courses some people would have preferred more time to complete the hands-on exercises, whereas others had plenty of time.  To overcome this issue, exercises and data were made available to participants following the programme.


The language used by the PHI community is a combination between clinical procedures and diseases, general health, statistics, finance and informatics.

Individual module feedback can be seen on separate posts.

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