New Master of Public Health Program to admit students for fall 2018

Collaborative program spans disciplines, schools

Public health encompasses much more than healthy eating habits and exercise. Binghamton University's new Master of Public Health program will prepare students to explore complex public health issues and collaborate to create healthier communities. Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.
Public health encompasses much more than healthy eating habits and exercise. Binghamton University's new Master of Public Health program will prepare students to explore complex public health issues and collaborate to create healthier communities.
Public health encompasses much more than healthy eating habits and exercise. Binghamton University's new Master of Public Health program will prepare students to explore complex public health issues and collaborate to create healthier communities. Photography: Jonathan Cohen.

Binghamton University announces a new graduate degree program, the Master of Public Health (MPH), which will begin to admit students for fall 2018. “The MPH is designed to prepare graduates to analyze complex public health issues and to work collaboratively to create healthier communities,” said Yvonne Johnston, the founding director of the new MPH Program at Binghamton University.

Johnston, an associate professor, along with a team of people have been working for more than a year to develop the program. “Initially, the program will offer a generic master’s degree in which students may choose electives in global or population health. Eventually, we would love to be able to develop these course sequences into specific concentrations,” Johnston said.

Each sequence of three courses will address health concepts and measures, determinants and disparities, and strategies and policies so that students develop similar skill sets whether they plan to work in local or international settings. These courses, along with a topics course, will help students to understand the social, cultural and environmental contexts that impact health and to develop evidence-based solutions for critical public health problems.

“It’s a local and global approach to what we’re trying to do,” Johnston said. “We’re trying to build public health capacity in the state. I’ve been working with the Broome County Health Department for over 15 years, and I know there are a lot of people who would love to have a public health degree, but access to programs has been an issue.

“We also have a diverse faculty with expertise in international health who understand the unique challenges posed by working in other countries that have different health systems, population needs and resources,” she said.

At the core of the public health discipline is epidemiology. “It’s a way of looking at health-related data and information,” Johnston said. “The American Public Health Association is one of the largest professional health associations. It covers a broad range of disciplines and is inclusive of all health professions, and yet the scientific methods are very much the same. So the MPH provides you with a skill set for how to analyze and solve health problems at a population level — that means something to an employer.

“I’ve been very fortunate to be selected as director,” Johnston said, adding that she loved spearheading the curriculum development, calling it the easy part of the program’s development. “This is an interprofessional and interdisciplinary type of degree that will be attractive for nutritionists, dentists, doctors, nurses and social workers, as well as anthropologists, psychologists, statisticians and engineers. You can take public health and put it with just about anything because everything can relate back to your health.”

As a result, the MPH should appeal to a broad range of student interests and can lead to a variety of careers in public health, including state and local health departments, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, and community-based health and human service agencies. Careers in the private sector will be found in industries such as insurance, pharmaceuticals, informatics and communications. “You name it,” Johnston said. “We’re trying to improve public health competencies across the board so that when decisions are being made, the ramifications to public health are always considered.”

Johnston’s hope is that the program, which is expected to enroll about 25 students in its first class, will grow to become a department and, one day, perhaps a school. “There’s a good fit with what we’re trying to start here and [with] Binghamton University’s goal of developing a college of health sciences.”

Those interested in the MPH can find more information and apply online.

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