Identifying core competencies for practicing public health professionals: results from a Delphi exercise in Uttar Pradesh, India

Sudip Bhandari, Brian Wahl, Sara Bennett, Cyrus Y. Engineer, Pooja Pandey, David H. Peters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Ensuring the current public health workforce has appropriate competencies to fulfill essential public health functions is challenging in many low- and middle-income countries. The absence of an agreed set of core competencies to provide a basis for developing and assessing knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes contributes to this challenge. This study aims to identify the requisite core competencies for practicing health professionals in mid-level supervisory and program management roles to effectively perform their public health responsibilities in the resource-poor setting of Uttar Pradesh (UP), India. Methods: We used a multi-step, interactive Delphi technique to develop an agreed set of public health competencies. A narrative review of core competency frameworks and key informant interviews with human resources for health experts in India were conducted to prepare an initial list of 40 competency statements in eight domains. We then organized a day-long workshop with 22 Indian public health experts and government officials, who added to and modified the initial list. A revised list of 54 competency statements was rated on a 5-point Likert scale. Aggregate statement scores were shared with the participants, who discussed the findings. Finally, the revised list was returned to participants for an additional round of ratings. The Wilcoxon matched-pairs signed-rank test was used to identify stability between steps, and consensus was defined using the percent agreement criterion. Results: Stability between the first and second Delphi scoring steps was reached in 46 of the 54 statements. By the end of the second Delphi scoring step, consensus was reached on 48 competency statements across eight domains: public health sciences, assessment and analysis, policy and program management, financial management and budgeting, partnerships and collaboration, social and cultural determinants, communication, and leadership. Conclusions: This study produced a consensus set of core competencies and domains in public health that can be used to assess competencies of public health professionals and revise or develop new training programs to address desired competencies. Findings can also be used to support workforce development by informing competency-based job descriptions for recruitment and performance management in the Indian context, and potentially can be adapted for use in resource-poor settings globally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1737
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Delphi technique
  • Human resource development
  • India
  • Public health competencies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Identifying core competencies for practicing public health professionals: results from a Delphi exercise in Uttar Pradesh, India'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this