A new School of Public Health is being launched in West Virginia and that is big news nationwide and especially in West Virginia. They’ve suffered from bad publicity as well as bad health, physical, mental and public for centuries. Although understanding they’re no worse off in the health care field than the rest of the country, they see it as their duty take the reins of control and educate educators who can get West Virginians and the rest of the world on the road to better health.
The new school, according to The Gazette already has an enrollment of 179 students and 13 new faculty members. They have in place three graduate degree programs: Enrollees in their Master of Public Health program add up to 122; in their Master of Science in School Health Education 35 and in the Public Health doctoral programs 22 have applied.
In this public health endeavor five educational disciplines will be taught: Biostatistics, epidemiology, health policy, management and environmental health and behavioral science. Graduates, it is hoped, will find jobs waiting for them when they graduate. And what kind of jobs will be waiting with open doors?
Biostatistics is the study and application of biology as it’s combined with statistics. That study is necessary because the health care fields need to know how to interpret statistics concerning illnesses. They need to know how effective their communication; their intensive effort at creating a society that understands how to take care of their own health; their school curricula that place health care as a primary study beginning in kindergarten, has been. That allows them to plan accordingly.
In health care it’s important to know what causes illnesses and what factors contribute to the many illnesses that public health deals with; the students studying epidemiology will be learning how to spot living styles, societal problems and ways in living that contribute to diseases. As an example, they’ll want to know why certain areas of a state, a country, have more obesity than other areas; why heart disease is less prevalent in certain countries than in others. They, as partners with other health care disciplines, statistics, as an example, will work toward finding the answers to the questions asked.
What if the current method of care isn’t living up to its expectations? What need be changed? These are problems that those dealing with health policy have to make. It makes no sense to keep using tried and supposedly true methods if statistic and epidemiological studies show they don’t work. An example of that might be the over use of drugs for certain illness that in the long run cause more pain than it alleviates. In such cases priorities need be changed.
When management is lacking everything else falls apart. A good example of how that relates to public health is the current situation in the US today concerning the overuse and abuse of Medicare and Medicaid. No one disputes the reasoning behind helping the poor, disabled and the elderly, but in certain instances these are mismanaged. When this happens all suffer. Work is the best cure for what ails most people. If they aren’t obligated to do something for what they receive, they suffer from lack of incentive. Their pent up emotions are all too often used adversely. Management is an important part of the public health picture.
Those who oppose environmental controls rave and rant about the restrictions of environmentalists—as an example—but don’t they breath the same air and drink the polluted water that results from inconsiderate use? Will it take something drastic like cancer to make them see the light? These are the concerns of a special group of health care workers; their aim is to educate the public about how to recycle and put less stress on nature.
Why do people do what they do? How come they some people are naturally health conscious and some other are way out in left field. In the medical field psychiatrists and psychologists and social workers usually deal with behavioral problems but in public health they delve deeper. Their primary concern is public health and how attitudes about mental health and inherited conditions may affect the way society deals with those that disrupt the way things are normally done.
It will be interesting to see how this new school will affect the educational system in not only West Virginia but in neighboring Kentucky, Virginia, Ohio and Tennessee and in fact the whole eastern area of the US. Public health is not unknown in West Virginia but outside of the medical school at Marshall in Huntington and at the University at Morgantown—where the new school is now taking shape—there’s been no direct emphasis on public health.
Mostly public health has been a subject taught in medicine and in nursing and that’s that. But to have its own school in a university, that’s a first for public health in West Virginia. The five Public Health schools in the country are first, Johns Hopkins; second, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; third, Harvard University; fourth, University of Michigan and fifth, Columbia University. None of them are just across the border from West Virginia.