Undergraduate public health education is booming. According to the College Board there are now approximately 500 public health and related undergraduate programs. There were only a handful of programs 10years ago when the undergraduate public health movement was launched by the Institute of Medicine's recommendation that "…all undergraduate should have access to education in public health."
The growth of undergraduate programs continues not only in institutions with graduate public health education but in colleges and universities of every size and type. The Framing the Future of Public Health Education Task Force sees undergraduate public health as key to the continuum of public health education from community colleges to doctoral education. In fact community colleges are emerging as fundamental to the development of undergraduate public health education. Community colleges are now working closely with public health organizations to examine recommendations for Associate degree and Certificate programs which meet workforce needs and can articulate with bachelor's degrees.
Encouragement for continued growth in undergraduate education at 2-year and 4-year institutions has been provided by an American Public Health Association (APHA) resolution. APHA is "the oldest, largest and most diverse organization of public health professionals in the world" and a co-publisher of the Essential Public Health series. In addition, Healthy People 2020 features new objectives to greatly increase the number of undergraduate public health programs at 2-year and 4-year colleges. Undergraduate public health is now on the national agenda, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Washington Post it has become a hot major.
The Educated Citizen and Public Health movement began in 2006 with a Consensus Conference of public health and undergraduate educators. In follow-up to the conference, undergraduate education organizations including the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and public health education organization including the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH) developed efforts to promote undergraduate public health including public health 101, global health 101, and epidemiology 101. Today both AAC&U and ASPH maintain excellent undergraduate websites with a wide range of resources and list serves for faculty and institutions developing undergraduate public health education. See the Educated Citizen and Public Health under Science and Health at www.aacu.org and Undergraduate Education for Public Health at www.asph.org.
ASPH has developed key recommendation for undergraduate public health education using expert panels including a wide spectrum of public health educators. These recommendations are set forth in two documents. Undergraduate Public Health Learning Outcomes makes recommendations for including public health in the curriculum as well as extracurricular activities of all 2-year and 4-year colleges. The Critical Component Elements of An Undergraduate Major in Public Health outlines the key components of a major in public health that apply to all undergraduate majors. Both documents are available at www.asph.org. The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) is now planning to voluntarily accredit colleges which offer bachelor's degree programs but do not have a graduate public health program. CEPH is planning to utilize the Critical Component Elements as the basis for their curricular review.
An annual Undergraduate Public Health "Summit" now brings together hundreds of undergraduate public educators at a yearly meeting the Saturday before the APHA meeting. The presentations and posters highlight the range of exciting innovation that is occurring in undergraduate public health education. New opportunities for undergraduate public health now exist as the revised MCAT examination will include health behavior and research methods and statistics beginning in the spring of 2015.
The Essential Public Health series, published by Jones and Bartlett Learning and co-published by the American Public Health Association has been developed to help make undergraduate public health education happen. The series, which includes over 20 books and is still growing, now covers the full range of curricula needed to offer a public health major and fulfill the national recommendations. Ancillary materials for students and faculty make the series engaging and easy to use.
The Essential Public Health series includes books by many award winning teachers who have coordinated efforts to bring you classroom tested, visually attractive texts of the highest quality. To explore the full series go to www.essentialpublichealth.com. New books and features are being continuously added to the series. For instance see the Navigate 101 options which now include Public Health 101, Epidemiology 101, and Global Health 101 (Coming Spring 2014). Our aim is to continue to bring you new books and new editions which help you engage your students in the excitement of learning public health.
Richard K. Riegelman, MD, MPH, PhD is Professor of Epidemiology-Biostatistics, Medicine, and Health Policy, and Founding Dean of The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. Dr. Riegelman has taken a lead role in developing the Educated Citizen and Public Health initiative which has brought together arts and sciences and public health education associations to implement the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommendation that “…all undergraduates should have access to education in public health.” Dr. Riegelman also led the development of the George Washington University’s undergraduate Public Health major and minor and currently teaches “Public Health 101” and “Epidemiology 101” to undergraduates.