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Keywords:

  • competency standards;
  • consensus;
  • workforce development

Abstract

Aim

To assess consensus among public health nutrition (PHN) workforce development stakeholders on the competencies required for effective PHN practice in the Australian workforce context.

Methods

A modified Delphi study involving two iterative survey rounds among an expert panel of 33 Australian PHN workforce development stakeholders. Surveys tested panellist ratings (essential, useful, irrelevant) of a listing of 143 competency elements derived from the literature and existing competency standards, across two survey rounds, with feedback between rounds. An arbitrary consensus cut-off of 67% was applied with <10% change between rounds or 100% agreement interpreted as agreement stability.

Results

A total of 109 competency elements from the total list of 143 were rated as essential above the consensus cut-off, representing 76% of the original list. Thirty-three (33) elements were rated as essential by 100% of panellists. Approximately 90% or more of the competency elements tested were retained using the 67% cut-off across nutrition science, nutrition communication, professional communication, capacity building and intervention management competency units. Competency elements rated as essential beyond the consensus cut-off concentrated in the practice competency units of nutrition assessment, monitoring and surveillance, capacity building, and intervention management.

Conclusions

The results provide an empirical basis for future nutrition curriculum renewal and workforce development innovations and challenge the assumption that existing dietetic workforce preparation based on meeting entry-level competencies is adequate for community and PHN practice.