Practice analysis to validate Master of Public Health core competencies and identify education gaps in Ethiopia: a national cross-sectional study


  • Tegbar Yigzaw
  • Makonnen Assefa
  • Mirgissa Kaba
  • Yayehyirad Kitaw
  • Solomon Worku
  • Tesfaye Bulto


Introduction: Competency-based education has the potential to transform educational and health outcomes. The taskforce for strengthening public health education drafted core competencies for Master of Public Health (MPH) education in Ethiopia. This study aims to validate the draft MPH core competencies and identify education gaps.

Methods: A national cross-sectional survey was conducted in 2015 with public health professionals who hold an MPH degree. The required sample size was calculated using a single population proportion formula. Study participants were selected from the different regions using a convenience sampling technique. They were asked to make judgements about the 127 draft competencies organized in 11 domains. For each competency statement, respondents answered four basic questions: 1) How important is accurate and timely performance of the competency on population health outcomes? 2) How often do you perform the task? 3) How comfortable are you in performing the task? 4) When and where were you trained to perform the task? We collected data using a self-administered questionnaire. Data analysis involved calculating proportions for each competency, followed by generating an average percentage for each competency domain.

Results: A total of 350 public health professionals from academia and practice participated in the study. Over 90% of respondents said that the draft public health core competencies were important for improving population health outcomes. More than one third of the respondents indicated they performed the public health competencies rarely. A further 8.3% to 27.6% said they had never performed the public health competencies in their career. Although most respondents said they were competent, one sixth to one quarter admitted a lack of capability in the domains of financial planning and management, cultural competence, policy and program, leadership and systems thinking, and education and training. Pre-service education was the most frequent setting for learning public health competencies. However, between one quarter and one third did not have any opportunity to learn some competencies, especially in the domains of cultural competence, financial planning and management, leadership and systems thinking, policy and program, communication skills, and education and training. Public health competency domains with high ‘not trained’ responses also drew high ‘not capable’ and high ‘never performed’ responses.

Conclusions: The draft MPH core competencies are applicable to Ethiopia. The substantial education gaps found in our study warrant re-designing the MPH curriculum. [Ethiop. J. Health Dev. 2020; 34(Special issue 1):16-24]

Key words: Master of Public Health (MPH); essential competencies; postgraduate education; public health; competence gaps




How to Cite

Yigzaw, T., Assefa, M., Kaba, M., Kitaw, Y., Worku, S., & Bulto, T. (2020). Practice analysis to validate Master of Public Health core competencies and identify education gaps in Ethiopia: a national cross-sectional study. The Ethiopian Journal of Health Development, 34(Special is). Retrieved from



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