USF Public Health first in state to launch new master’s curriculum

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The USF College of Public Health is the first in Florida to update curriculum for its master’s degree program, a step that is in tandem with a national effort to better train the public health workforce and improve population health.

The new curriculum – built from concepts found in “Framing the Future: The Second Hundred Years of Education for Public Health” launched earlier this year by the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) – incorporates more integrated, real-world coursework that better reflects the realities of today’s public health job settings.

“We have to move into the 21st Century and this new curriculum is better at meeting the needs of today’s students,” said Rita DeBate, PhD, professor and associate dean for the COPH Office of Academic and Student Affairs.

Under the direction of Donna J. Petersen, ScD, MHS, CPH, dean of the USF College of Public Health, Dr. DeBate and Jaime Corvin, MSPH, CPH, PhD, assistant professor of public health, worked with a committee of faculty to guide this initiative. For two years they worked with a committee of fellow COPH faculty members to create the new curriculum and last fall the first group began the pilot project.

Last week, the first group made their final presentations for their community-based projects before moving on to the concentration coursework.

Last week, the first group made their final presentations for their community-based projects before moving on to the concentration coursework.

Like most public health schools, USF’s College of Public Health has long relied on curriculum that is based on out-of-date frameworks. For decades – since the Welch-Rose report of 1915 – public health professionals were required to study five areas considered core competencies: epidemiology, biostatistics, environmental health, health policy and management, and social and behavioral sciences.

Like five silos standing alone, these core competencies rarely shared courses or blended content, Dr. DeBate said. Instead, students could only imagine how one course truly related to the others.

The COPH committee took those competencies, added in seven additional skills determined to be imperative for 21st Century public health professionals (systems thinking, leadership, communication and informatics, diversity and culture, ethics and professionalism, program planning and evaluation, and public health biology) and developed four core courses that incorporate all key concepts and create continuity across student learning with real-world approaches to addressing public health issues.

“We took a step back to think about how these concepts come together in true public health settings,” Dr. Corvin said. “Teaching these concepts in an integrated fashion strengthens all of the concepts, gives students true applicable context and bridges content from one class to the next.”

For example students are now learning about public health biology and genetics, concepts previously void in the curriculum but imperative to 21st Century Public Health.  We discuss the prevalence of certain genetic conditions and differences that may exist by racial/ethnic subgroup.  We then move into discussion of the probability that someone who is carrying a certain gene may get the condition, which leads to discussion of legal and ethical issues around genetic testing.  This one case highlights the concepts from the original core but requires a holistic understanding of the concepts and critical thinking skills, Dr. Corvin said.

Read the full story at USF Health News

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Public health programs across the country see major changes to curriculum [Multimedia]