By Miguel Gonzalez
The College’s School of Nursing, Health and Exercise Science announced the launch of a master’s of public health program on Oct. 16. The program will help graduate students pursue careers in health departments, global health and health education, as well as prepare them for medical school, according to Carol Kenner, the dean of the School of Nursing, Health, and Exercise Science.
The College’s Board of Trustees approved the program last July, according to the College’s website.
“Our program’s mission statement is to prepare graduates to advance the public’s health through education, health promotion and the improvement of health outcomes of populations and individuals domestically and globally by fostering the critical thinking, leadership and decision-making of our students,” Kenner said.
Full-time students can complete the program in two years while part-time students can complete it in four to five years, according to the College’s website.
The College is currently accepting applications for the program, which is scheduled to begin next fall. Kenner says the College is planning to promote the MPH program in career fairs.
The MPH program will provide graduate students with research, policy development and interdisciplinary education to address issues in health promotion, public health systems and personalized health, according to Kenner.
In order for students to complete the MPH program, they will need to take five core classes, three electives and complete a graduate capstone internship. There will be three tracks within the MPH program — the precision health track, the health communication track and the global health track.
The College’s MPH program will be led by faculty including Graduate Coordinator Carolina Borges, Department Chair for Public Health Brenda Seals, Public Health Assistant Professor Marina De Souza, Communication Studies Professor Keli Steuber Fazio, Communication Studies Associate Professor Yifeng Hu, Communication Studies Professor John Leustek and Communication Studies Professor John C. Pollock, according to the College’s website.
Evidenced by the significant portion of communication studies professors amongst the MPH faculty members, Pollock sees an important connection between communication and public health.
“Health Communication is one of the three major tracks in the MPH program, and health communication is a specialty and strength we in comm studies have developed over many years, and it is my own special strength,” Pollock said.
Kenner says that the three tracks make the program stand out from other programs in the region.
“Our program provides cutting-edge content in precision health that is individualized health based on genetic and genomic influences, besides the use of technology,” Kenner said. “TCNJ MPH offers three tracks of specialization that build on our strengths. No other program in the region offers all three of these tracks.”
Pollock plans to teach three courses in the MPH program. In his course Health and Risk Communication Campaigns: A Social Marketing Approach, Pollock will provide a gateway to the Health Communication track.
Pollock says that students will learn to prepare white papers — or papers analyzing policies addressing critical health issues such diabetes — and draft strategies and tactics to address those issues. It’s based on a program Johns Hopkins has developed, called a “P-Process.”
The P-Process is a tool for researching, developing and monitoring health communication campaigns.
In another course called International Communication, Pollock plans to explore the impact of media on society with a theory he has developed called the Community Structure Theory.
“We will explore connections between national demographic characteristics and variations in cross-national coverage of such compelling issues such as human trafficking, drug trafficking, water contamination, child labor and access to HIV (or) AIDS treatment,” Pollock said.
Pollock will also teach a course called Global Health Communication and Social Change. The course will address global public health issues such as child brides, the Zika virus, access to HIV treatment and child labor, according to Pollock.
“The purpose is to help students learn to write the kinds of policy papers and recommendations they would be asked to draft while working with United States Agency for International Development, the World Health Organization, the Gates Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and leading organizations in the effort to promote health and reduce risk,” Pollock said.
Kenner believes that the program will educate graduate students about health promotion and disease prevention.
“The goal of public health is protecting life and improving people’s lives by creating, proposing, and implementing scalable solutions to solve population level problems,” Kenner said. “Overall, people are living longer, more affected than ever by chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes type II, which are strongly associated with unhealthy lifestyles (such as) high fat intake, lack of physical activity and smoking.”
While Kenner noted an increase in life expectancy in the U.S., more Americans are dying from chronic diseases. In 2014, 2,626,418 resident deaths were recorded in the U.S., 29,425 more than in 2013, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Kenner also plans to address the shortage of public health professionals. Kenner cited a 2012 CDC Morbidity and Mortality weekly report called Public Health Surveillance Workforce of the Future, Supplements by Patricia A. Drehobl, Sandra W. Roush, Beth H. Stover and Denise Koo. The Association of Schools of Public Health projected a shortfall of 250,000 public health workers by 2020, according to the report.
Kenner says the shortage of professionals will have a tremendous impact on public health.
“These projected shortages will directly affect the ability of federal, state and local public health agencies to protect the public health,” Kenner said.
Pollock is optimistic of the growth of the public health sector in New Jersey. He hopes that graduates of the College’s MPH program will be able to promote healthy lifestyles and address issues such as America’s aging population.
“We hope to excite students about ways that health communication training and scholarship can help our students promote healthy and less risky lifestyles and actually save lives,” Pollock said. “Because national demographics reveal a growing senior (and) aging population, because the federal government is devoting more resources to health, and because New Jersey is the pharmaceutical capital of the world, jobs in public health are plentiful and will continue to grow.”
Based on the success of the undergraduate public health major, the College’s MPH program has the potential to prepare an excellent class of public health professionals.