Archive for October, 2022

Public health as a specialty is committed to improving health and reducing inequalities. It can only do this if it is a fair profession: it reflects the population we serve and all in it feel included and treated equally.  While demographic characteristics have been recorded and measured in the past, we are putting a renewed focus on identifying inequalities and working to remove them. This will involve not only looking at data on diversity and progression, but also asking people whether they feel included.

Our initial focus is on ethnic differences but we will be looking at all protected characteristics and wider measures of inequality. Ultimately, we aim to have a Fair Training Culture and fair career structure.

The first detailed report we have made available is on the process of recruitment into public health – we are grateful to Health Education England for commissioning the work and Imperial College London for doing such an excellent study. The stimulus for this was a report in the British Medical Journal in February 2020 highlighting inequalities in recruitment process across medical profession. The work was delayed by COVID but is now complete and looks in detail at the different parts of the recruitment pathway.

These results are a wake-up call. Those working in recruitment are committed to fairness, so it is surprising to see unfair processes built in. Specifically, the assessment centre tests for numeracy, critical reasoning and situational judgement (done on a computer at a test centre) have significant biases. We have previously focused on training interviewers to reduce biases, but now we have identified this specific issue we can start to do something about it. It is not immediately apparent why this is happening but we are revising the SJT with a much more diverse group of assessors, improving the availability of support materials and hope to start exploring alternatives to the current tests.

Further work over the coming months will look at progress through training including exams and annual reviews, and then we will look at appointments and career progress. We are grateful for the work many members in the Faculty are doing in this area, from the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee and Special Interest Group but also are looking for further capacity from members to undertake this work.

Professor Kevin Fenton, FPH President

Dr David Chappel, FPH Academic Registrar

October 2022

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