School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Washington, Seattle & King County Join Forces for New Academic Health Department

The University of Washington Schools of Public Health and of Nursing and Public Health-Seattle & King County (PHSKC), one of the largest metropolitan health departments in the United States, have formalized a new academic health department.

The goal of the partnership is to advance public health practice, programs and policies and to maximize public health training opportunities for students. The partnership will also enhance collaboration and resource sharing amongst the participating organizations.

“Academic public health departments make for great collaboration. Our faculty and students can engage in meaningful service while being exposed to state-of-the-art public health work,” says Dr. Joel Kaufman, interim dean of the University of Washington School of Public Health. “It’s another great example of how our School is involved in the community and not huddled in the ivory tower.”

The Public Health Foundation defines an academic health department as a formal affiliation between a health department and an academic institution that trains future health professionals. The relationship is similar to a “teaching hospital” affiliation between hospitals and medical schools.

The Northwest Center for Public Health Practice (NWCPHP), the outreach arm of the UW School of Public Health, will help facilitate the activities of the academic health department. NWCPHP Director Dr. Betty Bekemeier, professor of psychosocial and community health and adjunct professor of health services, says creation of an academic health department cements the longstanding relationship that already exists between the UW and PHSKC.

NWCPHP is particularly suited for its key role of helping facilitate the academic health department. “The center’s mission is to promote excellence in public health by linking academia and the practice community,” Dr. Bekemeier says. “How that plays out is by facilitating bridges, assuring that we are focused on building capacity, both with the University for practice, and with the practice community by leveraging the University resources and opportunities.”

In their formal agreement, which runs through August 2020, UW and PHSKC officials stressed that creation of an academic health department would provide mutual benefits in teaching, research and public health services.

“I look forward to strengthening our partnership with the University of Washington to enhance both public health and academic practice, including teaching, training, workforce development and collaborative applied research,” says PHSKC Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin. “Formalizing this priority work through the academic health department is great news for our department, residents of King County and the state.” Dr. Duchin is a professor of medicine and adjunct professor of epidemiology.

Additional goals for the academic health department include:

UW and PHSKC officials hope to reach the goals by, among other steps, offering field placements and internship opportunities for UW students with PHSKC to build their skills and knowledge of community-based public health practice. Officials plan to work together to improve data quality and systems to improve the effectiveness of public health services provided to the county’s residents.

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