Refocusing Public Health Priorities. (Behavior Must Change)

By Perlstein, Steve | Clinical Psychiatry News, November 2002 | Go to article overview
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Refocusing Public Health Priorities. (Behavior Must Change)

Perlstein, Steve, Clinical Psychiatry News

As he surveyed the growing public health crisis tearing through the Baltimore community around him and considered that a mere 2% of the billions of dollars in annual public health funds in the United States go to prevention of problems such as addiction and violence, Jay Carrington Chunn, Ph.D., decided it was time to act.

Those factors were the impetus for Dr. Chunn, associate vice president for academic affairs at Morgan State University, Baltimore, to put in place what he calls the nation's first public health doctorate program focused on prevention rather than on research. That approach was validated in July when the W.K. Kellogg Foundation awarded Morgan State and Dr. Chunn a $600,000, 3-year grant to form the National Center for Health Behavioral Change.

"Public health as a profession had become too research and policy focused," Dr. Chunn said. "Not to negate research, which is important, but prevention of health problems has become a sideline to this profession."

When he began surveying 27 schools of public health across the country, Dr. Chunn said he found two things. First, only Morgan State was a predominantly African American institution. Second, none of the 27 schools focused on disease prevention, steering instead toward academic research.

"It only stood to reason that we should develop a program at the doctoral level," Dr. Chunn said.

The center, funded by the Kellogg grant, through a group of senior fellows, aims to work toward disseminating prevention in the public health community through the following six steps:

* To develop health behavioral change curricula for schools of public health, psychiatry, and psychology.

* To identify pressing research needs in the area of health behavioral change.

* To develop cross-cultural training materials for public health practitioners in the field.

* To provide technical assistance to schools of public health in integrating cultural competency into their curricula.

* To assemble a top group of professionals across several disciplines to develop health behavior change theory and to validate that theory through practice.

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