Starting in the fall of 2016, the University of Iowa College of Public Health will offer a bachelor’s degree in public health, becoming the first Iowa Regents institution to host an undergraduate major in the field.
The public health undergraduate degree is expected to help meet Iowa’s need for trained public health professionals who can directly support citizens’ health. It also would respond to an expected shortage in Iowa and nationally of public health, community health, and clinical health workers, and a lack of formal training in the field.
“Health care systems in the U.S. are experiencing major changes and these shifts are creating new opportunities and employment prospects for students with population health knowledge and skills,” says Dr. Sue Curry, UI College of Public Health dean. “We also know that many in the public health workforce are nearing retirement age, so we need to train the next generation of professionals.”
The UI public health bachelor’s degree will provide students with a basic understanding of the five core public health knowledge areas: biostatistics, social and behavioral sciences, epidemiology, health policy and management, and environmental health sciences.
It will be divided into two tracks — a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science. The BA track will focus on the community and behavioral aspects of public health for students interested in working in areas such as health education, health communication, health program development, and public health policy or preparing for advanced education in the social sciences, community and behavioral health, health policy and management, and other fields.
The BS track will have depth in the basic sciences for students who are interested in working in a laboratory setting or preparing for advanced education in biostatistics, dentistry, environmental health, epidemiology, medicine, nursing, occupational health, pharmacy, and veterinary medicine.
The College is already seeing increased interest in the public health courses currently offered to undergraduates. According to director of undergraduate programs, Dr. Margaret Chorazy, the fall 2015 Fundamentals in Public Health course has reached its capacity of 75 students with a waitlist for those still wanting to register.
Additionally, the UI College of Public Health has established an accelerated program to allow University of Iowa undergraduates to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years, rather than the typical six years. Similar partnerships with Grinnell College and Coe College allow students at those private liberal arts institutions to earn a BA and MPH in five years as well. Students who participate in these undergraduate to graduate (U2G) programs save a year of tuition and associated costs and have a one-year head start on their careers.