College to offer Master’s Degree in public health

By Alissa Groeninger

The Department of Kinesiology and Community Health will begin offering a master’s of Public Health degree in Fall 2009 to help meet the nation’s growing need for public health professionals.

“(The Master of Public Health Degree) is most desirable for people who want to practice in clinical health,” said Wojciech Chodzko-Zajko, head of the Department of Kinesiology. “There is a real shortage of (public health) professionals around the country.”

The master’s program, which will be offered in the College of Applied Health Sciences, is designed to prepare students who intend to enter fields related to public health, prevention and public policy. Course content will focus on the topics of community health, physical activity and its relation to health, aging healthily, disease prevention, the effect communication disorders can have on health and building healthy communities.

“In almost every facet of one’s life there is a need for public health,” said Mike Robinson, deputy director at Illinois Department of Public Health. He said public health is concerned with healthy life choices, diseases like HIV, hospitals, the care in nursing homes, issuing birth certificates and maintaining death records.

After 9/11 public health also became concerned with preparedness activities to combat the effects of terrorism and chemicals. “Public health deals with those from the womb to the tomb,” Robinson added.

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Robinson said there are a broad number of career options for an individual with a master’s of Public Health. There are many organizations, including governmental public health departments, state-level public health departments, community health associations and nonprofit agencies that look for job candidates with a master’s of Public Health degree.

The U.S. Department of Labor predicts a growth rate between 18 and 26 percent in the number of public health professionals between now and 2014.

In the last five years, the number of public health programs has grown by 30 percent and continues growing, said Laura Rasar King, executive director for the Council on Education for Public Health. The University already has students studying public health at the undergraduate, graduate and doctorate levels.

Robinson said the field of public health is growing because of its constantly expanding role.

“We’ve seen this explosion for the need of public health,” Robinson said. “In almost every facet of one’s life there is a need for public health.”

Chodzko-Zajko said the focus on community health has led to this shortage of professionals. More employees are needed to meet the growing focus, and the University is helping to meet this demand.

“Public health as a profession is looking for a much younger work force,” Robinson said.

Pat Matranga, a nurse case manager with Broadspire, a third-party administrator for employers and insurance companies, said the shortage of public health professionals is tough on hospitals. She said she agrees that advances in medicine have created the need for more employees.

“There is so much more stuff going on in the medical field,” she said. “(Hospitals are) trying to keep up.”

A major in public health can lead to careers in….

  • health education
  • biostatistics
  • laboratory practice
  • biomedical practice
  • environmental health sciences
  • epidemiology
  • health policy
  • international health
  • maternal health care
  • child health care
  • nutrition
  • occupational safety and health