What is the future role of directors of public health?

By Nick Raper | 14 April 2021

As the COVID-19 pandemic has gripped the nation, the profile of directors of public health (DPH) has risen massively. So what does the role look like now?

The pandemic has seen the DPH adopt a much higher profile at the top table as local system leaders, chairing the local emergency response, managing the delivery of PPE, co-ordinating emergency support to people shielding and setting up local test and trace programmes, as well as addressing the wider health inequalities laid bare by COVID-19.

All of this comes with a significantly increased media profile and community leadership role.

Accordingly, I’ve seen a shift in expectations of DPH skillsets over the past year. Employers have upped their expectations of individuals applying for roles. They look increasingly for evidence of system leadership capability, a reassuring media presence, both online and in front of the camera or microphone, and the ability to engage the community in a clear and direct way.

As a result, we’re seeing increased demand for a media exercise as part of the assessment programme for a new director of public health – a sign of things to come?

The rising profile of the DPH and increased recognition of their role should bring the potential for greater opportunities to influence public health going forward.

The best talent will be in high demand. Let’s hope the high profile this last year has encouraged more to enter the talent pool and progress their career in this direction.


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