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The concept of capacity building for public health has gained much attention during the last decade. National as well as international organizations increasingly focus their efforts on capacity building to improve performance in the health sector. During the past two decades, a variety of conceptual frameworks have been developed which describe relevant dimensions for public health capacity. Notably, these frameworks differ in design and conceptualization. This paper therefore reviews the existing conceptual frameworks and integrates them into one framework, which contains the most relevant dimensions for public health capacity at the country or regional level. A comprehensive literature search was performed to identify frameworks addressing public health capacity building at the national or regional level. We content-analysed these frameworks to identify the core dimensions of public health capacity. The dimensions were subsequently synthesized into a set of thematic areas to construct a conceptual framework which describes the most relevant dimensions for capacities at the national or regional level. The systematic review resulted in the identification of seven core domains for public health capacity: resources, organizational structures, workforce, partnerships, leadership and governance, knowledge development and country specific context. Accordingly, these dimensions were used to construct a framework, which describes these core domains more in detail. Our research shows that although there is no generally agreed upon model of public health capacity, a number of key domains for public health and health promotion capacity are consistently recurring in existing frameworks, regardless of their geographical location or thematic area. As only little work on the core concepts of public health capacities has yet taken place, this study adds value to the discourse by identifying these consistencies across existing frameworks and by synthesising them into a new framework. The framework proposed in this paper can act as a theoretical guide for academic researchers and institutions to set up their own public health capacity assessment.
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