New Track for Undergraduate Health Degree Offers Solutions to Looming Challenge

Public Health Specialization, One of a Few in Texas, Addresses Pressing Need

HIV/AIDS awareness.  Drug-resistant strains of E-Coli.  Epidemics.  Natural and manmade disaster responses. Increasing health threats mean increasing need for health professionals at a time when a stark decrease looms for the industry.  Now, the University of Houston College of Education unveils a new degree specialization - new to Texas - to create more health professionals at a time when they are most needed.

The Bachelor of Science in health with a public health track will begin offering classes in fall 2011.  Students will take core classes in public health, such as health behavior, culture and health and administration of health services, to name a few, combined with classes in the Health Promotion Specialization and a wide variety of health electives. Students also will participate in an internship for first-hand experience in the industry.

"The need for undergraduate exposure to public health issues and skills has been acknowledged nationally," said Phyllis Gingiss, professor of public health education.  "Our new degree plan recognizes this and will prepare students for their future careers to meet critical community needs."

The Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH) expects that by the year 2012 one fourth of all current public health workers will be eligible to retire, creating a critical workforce gap.  The decline in the public health workforce is expected to reach 250,000 by the year 2020, leaving shortages of public health physicians, public health nurses, epidemiologists, health education specialists and administrators.  Gingiss says the degree prepares students for employment in public health positions in government agencies, corporations, community nonprofit organizations and health care facilities.

"Students also are primed for advanced study in public health, medicine, law and business, as well as careers in government and the private and nonprofit sectors" she said.  "Additionally, the degree plan addresses the competencies necessary for students to qualify for certification to be health education specialists. This is valuable to students seeking jobs since a 44% increase in employment opportunities for health educators is forecast in Texas by 2016."

Health care is the fastest growing job sector in Texas. The degree plan is an example of the University of Houston's commitment to public health education and health promotion by providing opportunities for students to learn and research as they prepare to be the next generation of health care professionals.

"The new public health degree track is part of an expanding initiative at UH to develop the college-educated regional health workforce," said Dr. Kathryn Peek, assistant vice president of University Health Initiatives.  "With our new emphasis on partnering with both community colleges on one end and with graduate-level health professions programs throughout the Texas Medical Center on the other, UH offers extraordinary health opportunities for all students interested in health careers."