The University of Texas at Arlington’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation will begin offering an undergraduate track in public health this fall as part of an effort to meet a rising nationwide demand for healthcare professionals grounded in wellness, disease and injury prevention.
Initially, students who successfully complete the 40-hour track will earn a bachelor’s degree in exercise science with an emphasis in public health. The college plans to seek approval from the University of Texas System and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board during the 2016-17 school year for a stand-alone bachelor’s degree in public health.
Among the career opportunities for public health professionals are positions as health educators, health policy analysts, health advocacy specialists, environmental specialist, disease intervention and industrial hygiene officers.
Anne Bavier, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Innovation, said the public health major will add great value to the College and the community and will further the University’s contribution to advancing health and the human condition under its Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.
“Much of our work in the teaching, research and service arena focuses on treatment, but we have increasingly been paying a lot of attention to prevention,” Bavier said. “A focus on prevention is important if we want to make play a key role in ensuring that our communities are both healthy and robust.
“A healthy community is a thriving community. Public health specialists are vital to our efforts to build healthy communities,” she added.
Public health professions focus on prevention rather than treatment and work to address the physical, environmental and mental health conditions of communities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 21-percent increase in demand for community health workers and public health educators, for example, through 2024.
Interim Provost Linda Johnsrud said the introduction of the public health major is an example of a University initiative aligned with workforce trends.
“Health care professionals are in high demand across Texas and the U.S.,” Johnsrud said. “With almost 3,400 graduates last year, the College of Nursing and Health Innovation is making a significant contribution to meeting workforce demands in related fields. The new public health care degree program significantly expands our capacity and gives students new opportunities to contribute to the wellness of our community
Public health is the ninth fastest-growing major in the United States, according to the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health.
Becky Garner, a clinical assistant professor of kinesiology who developed and is coordinating the College’s public health program, said the field merges individual health, community health, wellness and prevention.
“This focus is important, especially considering the current climate in our society, which is leaning toward more emphasis on prevention of chronic diseases,” she said.
The major also will have an urban focus, with students gaining real world experience through community partnerships and collaborations across North Texas, Garner said.
“The program addresses two overarching themes,” she added. “One is to train a diverse and competent public health workforce, and the other is to enable all undergraduate students to develop an appreciation for population health.”