New Initiative to Bring Public Health Education to Undergrads

By Johnson, Teddi Dineley | The Nation's Health, November 2007 | Go to article overview

New Initiative to Bring Public Health Education to Undergrads


Johnson, Teddi Dineley, The Nation's Health


Every day on the nation's college campuses, undergraduate students move from class to class against a backdrop of complex public health concerns. Drug-resistant diseases, obesity, bioterrorism, pandemic flu, climate change, the soaring cost of health care and tainted food are but a few of the public health issues that will impact their future health and well-being.

To prepare them for the challenges ahead, a movement has emerged to bring public health education to all of the nation's 6 million undergraduate students--not just those studying public health. The initiative--built on the belief that public health education should be an essential part of every undergraduate student's training--will be launched into the undergraduate education arenas this month as organizers set in motion a series of strategic events designed to raise awareness of the initiative. The agenda of events will engage public health practitioners and educators in a much-needed dialogue with leaders from undergraduate arts and sciences education organizations.

"We are really facilitating a movement here, and there are literally scores--perhaps hundreds--of universities that eventually will be teaching undergraduate public health," said Lloyd Novick, MD, MPH, director of the Division of Community Health and Preventive Medicine at East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine.

Offering core introductory courses in public health, epidemiology and global health, as well as an experiential learning strategy, emerged as recommendations made during the November 2006 Consensus Conference on Undergraduate Public Health Education, a landmark event that marked the first formal convergence of leaders from public health, arts and sciences and health professions education. The event, funded by the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, featured such prestigious sponsors as the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research, the Association of Schools of Public Health and the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences. Representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Association of American Colleges and Universities also took part.

The movement is progressing rapidly, with major funding for training efforts coming from a cooperative agreement with CDC, said Novick, who also serves as president of the Association of Prevention Teaching and Research. Undergraduate public health education is one of the association's priority areas, he said.

The new movement is rooted in a 2003 Institute of Medicine report, "Who Will Keep the Public Healthy?" which recommended that all undergraduate students should have access to education in public health.

The United States is home to about 100 graduate-level schools and accredited programs in public health, the majority of which already offer introductory public health courses to undergraduates. However, at least 1,900 undergraduate institutions in the United States are without schools or programs in public health. …

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