The University of New Mexico Board of Regents has approved the establishment of a College of Population Health as part of the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, in order to meet the rising demands of community health in the state.
The college will meet a growing need for a workforce that will help health systems meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act and help communities to improve wellness and prevention, according to a New Mexico press release.
Opening in 2016, it will be the first new college created in the Health Sciences Center in more than 50 years, taking its place alongside the School of Medicine, College of Nursing and College of Pharmacy, according to the statement.
It will be only the second college of population health in the U.S., and the first to offer a bachelor’s degree, said Dr. Deborah Helitzer, the new college’s founding dean.
“The College of Population Health will provide value for New Mexico. We will train a workforce to be part of the collaborative efforts of wellness and prevention, improving health outcomes and fostering innovations in health care delivery,” Dr. Helitzer said.
The college will attract new students to New Mexico and prepare them for highly marketable careers. Graduates of the college will work with the health system to implement changes needed by health reform, she said.
The college of population health will train students to go back to their own communities and address local problems such as teen pregnancy and alcohol related illness, she said. The general vision of the college is to improve health outcomes.
Like other colleges and schools at New Mexico, the College of Population Health will offer different programs, she said.
“The College of Population Health will host Masters in Public Health, B.S. in Population Health is starting with five courses and a total of 252 credit hours in fiscal year 2016 and will expand to 39 courses and 3,672 credits hours by fiscal year 2021,” according to New Mexico documents.
According to the documents, a doctorate in population health will start with five students and a total of 80 credit hours in fiscal year 2018 and increase to 20 students and 320 credit hours by 2021.
Ms. Ava Lovell, senior executive officer for finance and administration at HSC, said that the college will focus on improvements in population health through translational research, disruptive innovations in health care, epigenetics and personalized medicine and community-engaged research.
Ms. Helitzer said she plans for the college to integrate those subjects on a local level.
“There are many communities in New Mexico that need health literacy, health information and health resources. They have no pharmacies, and no places to buy fresh fruits from. Their easy access to alcohol and drugs increase their risk of alcohol related diseases. These factors increase their risk of diabetes and hypertension,” she said.
There is a need of skilled people in the field of population health and today there is no institution in New Mexico that provides that training, she said.
“New Mexico’s social determinants of health are among the worst in the country. Population health provides us an opportunity to work together and address many of those social determinants. As an example of this collaboration, Presbyterian is now sponsoring projects in the South Valley in the international district to improve access of the people to fresh fruits. Population health can make people aware of what they can do themselves to improve their health,” she said.
Health institutions have always been focused on improvement of population health across New Mexico, she said.
“Having people who are trained in population can reduce the number of high risk population and therefore decrease burden on hospitals and clinics,” she said.