UK Creates College of Public Health

Contact: Jill Holder

 

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“To improve the health status of the Commonwealth will require decisions by individuals, families and communities to engage in activities and practices that positively affect health status.”

-- Thomas W. Samuel,
acting director,
College of Public Health,
University of Kentucky

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 4, 2004) -- The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees today approved the creation of the UK College of Public Health, the university’s first health professions college since the College of Allied Health Professions was established in 1966. This action will allow the School of Public Health, formerly part of the College of Medicine, to convert to college status, making it the UK Chandler Medical Center’s sixth college of health professions.

“A significant investment in public health education is needed to address the important health issues confronting Kentucky and the nation,” said Michael T. Nietzel, UK provost. “Resources were already available in the existing UK School of Public Health to permit the university to establish this college and prepare it for accreditation. Otherwise, it would have been difficult to form a new college in these very tight budget times.”

UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. said a College of Public Health will enable UK to meet its responsibilities in a state that is beset with serious public health concerns.

“The college will play a vital role in our commitment to confront Kentucky’s severe health disparities – lung cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, among others – through public health workforce development, collaborative research, and educational programming,” Todd said.

“Students will also benefit from attending an accredited college by gaining access to training and internship opportunities available only to students and graduates of accredited public health programs. Certain grant opportunities are available exclusively to accredited colleges of public health,” he said.

The increased prevalence of chronic health conditions in Kentucky and the United States, the costs of curative health care for diseases related to these health conditions and of health care benefits for employers, and the movement to a global economy have combined to demand an emphasis on prevention and population-based health. Kentucky ranks 39th in health outcomes among the states and 36th in health risk factors.

“To improve the health status of the Commonwealth will require decisions by individuals, families and communities to engage in activities and practices that positively affect health status,” said Thomas W. Samuel, J.D., acting director, UK College of Public Health.

“The establishment of the new College of Public Health will permit UK to move one step closer to being accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health and thus permit UK to more fully participate in the improvement of the health status of Kentuckians by educating students and practitioners; conducting research on disease, health practices and decision making that leads to positive health status; and providing services to the practitioners of public health and other professions in their activities to improve the health of the public,” he said.

The college will include the departments of Behavioral Health, Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Health Services Management, Preventative Medicine and Environmental Health, and the Graduate Center for Gerontology and its doctoral degree program. Health Services Management was transferred from the College of Health Sciences, Gerontology had been organized under the Graduate School, and the Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health program was previously located in the College of Medicine. The other departments have been developed within the UK School of Public Health over the past five years.

Since 1998, UK School of Public Health faculty have prepared public health professionals to improve the quality of life for Kentuckians and the nation by focusing on disease control and prevention. The newly formed college will continue to train students to address the increase of chronic diseases and other public health problems, such as injuries, toxins, bioterrorism and emergency preparedness. The college currently enrolls 120 Master of Public Health students, 38 Doctor of Public Health students and 38 doctorate in gerontology students. Consistent with the college's mission to contribute to the public health work force, over 35 percent of students are part-time.

“The UK College of Public Health is uniquely positioned to accomplish its mission in that UK will be one of only a few universities in the country with all six health science colleges. The College of Public Health will form strong partnerships with other colleges at UK, particularly Agriculture and Engineering,” Samuel said.

“The UK College of Public Health has worked closely with the Council on Postsecondary Education, the Kentucky Department for Public Health, and other academic public health programs at Eastern Kentucky University, the University of Louisville, and Western Kentucky University to establish a statewide plan for academic public health in Kentucky,” he said.

There are currently 33 accredited colleges of public health in the nation. The Council on Education for Public Health will conduct an accreditation site visit in September 2004. The council will render its accreditation decision in May 2005, based on results of the visit.


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