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Renewed focus on public health has brought about considerable interest in workforce development among public health nutrition professionals in Canada. The present article describes a situational assessment of public health nutrition practice in Canada that will be used to guide future workforce development efforts.
A situational assessment is a planning approach that considers strengths and opportunities as well as needs and challenges, and emphasizes stakeholder participation. This situational assessment consisted of four components: a systematic review of literature on public health nutrition workforce issues; key informant interviews; a PEEST (political, economic, environmental, social, technological) factor analysis; and a consensus meeting.
Information gathered from these sources identified key nutrition and health concerns of the population; the need to define public health nutrition practice, roles and functions; demand for increased training, education and leadership opportunities; inconsistent qualification requirements across the country; and the desire for a common vision among practitioners.
Findings of the situational assessment were used to create a three-year public health nutrition workforce development strategy. Specific objectives of the strategy are to define public health nutrition practice in Canada, develop competencies, collaborate with other disciplines, and begin to establish a new professional group or leadership structure to promote and enhance public health nutrition practice. The process of conducting the situational assessment not only provided valuable information for planning purposes, but also served as an effective mechanism for engaging stakeholders and building consensus.
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