Leadership Centre supports public health practitioners working with unprecedented complexity

Feb 14, 2022

Last month the Leadership Centre began work with public health practitioners across Yorkshire and Humber to develop enhanced skills in navigating complexity.

Participants came together for the first session this month and three more half day sessions, delivered remotely, will follow over the first quarter of this year. The work forms part of the Yorkshire and Humber Public Health Practitioner Workforce Development Programme commissioned by Health Education England and based at Leeds Institute of Medical Education at the University of Leeds.

Those benefiting from the development span across the whole system, ranging from public health consultants to people working within environmental health, sports and leisure, health improvement and violence reduction.

The programme focuses on introducing participants to the realities of working in complexity, helping people to see the theory in practice in their system and providing an opportunity to think differently about the ways they may choose to approach it.

Debbie Sorkin

National Director of Systems Leadership, Debbie Sorkin, said:

“People working in public health are navigating unprecedented complexity. We knew about the underlying issues before, but COVID has brought them into sharp relief, especially for people working in public health.

“We want to use these sessions to share concepts that the participants can assimilate to their own environment, so it doesn’t feel like theory; it feels very relevant to what they are going through right here, right now.

“We also hope to provide a better understanding of systems leadership approaches, tools and techniques that they can take away and which have immediate practical use. Despite the complexity, understanding why things are happening the way they are, and that you are not powerless is important. You don’t have to remain reactive – you can be proactive and take small actions which allow you to make progress.

“In many ways this programme is all about influencing when you don’t have positional power.”

Participants of the first cohort of the Bradford Council public health training programme described their experiences:

“I am currently in a transition phase as I am starting with a new team working on a brand new programme and will be able to utilise the various approaches and tools as there will no doubt be many complex issues.”

“I found the whole workshop interesting and worthwhile. I hope to use most the principles in my work.”

“Excellent session, learnt a lot and gained new skills to help not just at work, but in my role as a volunteer youth leader.”

“I really enjoyed the whole session and presentation. The style was engaging with lots of examples and context which I find helps to add meaning to the approaches. The slides are really helpful and have offered lots of food for thought on how I can approach projects in the future and to be able to plan ahead to tell the story and bring partners along with he goals and outcomes. Thank you for sharing so much knowledge with us. I could feel your passion for the subject. I have never known 3 hours go so quickly!”

Emma Mason, Public Health Programmes Manager for Yorkshire and the Humber, said:

“The overarching aim of the Public Health Practitioner Development Programme is to develop the public health workforce in Yorkshire and the Humber. To identify and fill ‘gaps’ in knowledge and competencies for anyone with a public health role in order to benefit the individual, organisation and the communities they serve.

“The Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of public health functions and in particular protecting the population and reducing inequalities in health, therefore developing public health workers with the core skills to carry out their roles effectively has never been more important. Current public health workforce development training is in high demand and there are plans to expand the programme remit to meet that demand.

“As well as core technical skills training, the Programme likes to offer interpersonal development training for public health workers and Debbie Sorkin’s ‘System Leadership’ training has been a perfect addition to programme activity at a very challenging time for the public health workforce. Debbie’s training provides participants with numerous strategies and guidance for manoeuvring through the constant change and complexity brought by the pandemic and to increase resilience at work.  The feedback for this training so far has been outstanding and a testament to Debbie’s proficient and engaging facilitation style. There are plans to include this valuable training from the Leadership Centre into Programme activity for the foreseeable future.”

Future events, each one delivered to between 35 and 40 people, will extend the reach to Bradford Metropolitan District Council public health practitioners, health professionals with public health responsibilities in Barnsley, West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health Equity Fellows Programme and other public health professionals working across Yorkshire and Humber.

To learn more please get in touch.


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