School of public health may be in Kent State’s future

Maria Nann

Kent State may soon be implementing a school of public health.

President Lester Lefton has asked Provost Robert Frank to prepare a comprehensive proposal by April 2009. This proposal will include steps for implementing such a school, as well as a plan for the programs that will be included in it. It will also outline necessary steps for approval by the state and accreditation.

After the proposal is issued, Frank said, Lefton will determine whether Kent State should implement the plan.

“No decision will be made until then,” Frank said.

The difference between the public health sector and the general health field, Frank said, is that public health deals with health and populations. Instead of just looking into health trends, students of the school of public health would be taught to look into health trends and how they affect communities.

“We’ve done some research that suggests that one thing Kent State could contribute to Northeast Ohio is in the area of public health,” Frank said, noting the area of public health is a growing field.

According to a brief on the American Public Health Association’s Web site, the number of public health workers in the United States has dropped from 220 workers for every 100,000 citizens in 1980 to 159 workers for every 100,000 citizens in 2000. Public health agencies expect to lose up to half of those workers to opportunities such as retirement and private sector work.

The brief also pointed out that even with the 500,000 public health workers across the country, there is a 20 percent vacancy rate in several state public health systems.

Evelyn Goldsmith, interim dean of graduate studies, is assisting the provost in preparing the proposal.

“There are a lot of public health issues,” she said. “It’s an area that needs more attention. We do believe there is a population for it out there.”

Goldsmith said there is a correlation between state population and the number of public health schools that exist. Ohio, which is the seventh-largest state in population, only has one existing public health school, which is at Ohio State.

“To locate a second (school) in Northeast Ohio would be advantageous to the state,” she said. “Like other places, we have our share of public health issues.”

Such issues, Goldsmith said, include age, obesity, environmental issues, violence, mental illness and poverty. She added that Kent State is in a wonderful position to contribute in the area of public health.

“With the expertise of our faculty,” she said, “we will be able to address these issues.”

The school of public health at Kent State would include the five following program areas:

&bull Epidemiology: the study of factors affecting health and illness of populations.

&bull Social and Behavioral Sciences: the study of social and behavioral factors affecting the population’s health.

&bull Biostatistics: statistical methods for populations and health.

&bull Health Administration: studying health care systems.

&bull Environmental Health: studying environmental health and populations.

“A school does not necessarily have to offer each concentration,” Frank said, “but (it) must offer the core courses in each of the five areas.”

Frank said there has been an increase of public health schools across the country in the last decade.

“KSU would joining a relatively elite group of universities if we successfully pursue this course,” he said.

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