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UT Offers New Undergraduate Public Health Major

Published: January 17, 2008

 The University of Tampa will begin offering a bachelor’s degree program in public health, designed for students interested in the improvement of population health and prevention of disease and disability.

The major, which resides in the UT department of exercise science and sport studies, focuses on:

  • identifying social and behavioral determinants of health;
  • developing and evaluating interventions and policies leading to the improvement of population health; and,
  • preparing professionals for leadership positions in advocacy and public health service.
Rebecca Olsen, assistant professor of allied health, exercise science and sport sciences, said there are two major highlights of the new public health program.

First, UT is the first academic institution in the Tampa Bay area to improve the capacity of public health at the undergraduate level.

“The field is thriving, not only in this country but around the world,” Olsen said. “Knowledge and opportunities in the field are exploding. The work of public health has expanded from infectious disease control to chronic disease, mental health issues, terrorist threats, and improved population-based health in the global community. The development of this program confirms the commitment that UT has to every student.”

Second, according to Olsen, the field of public health is extremely broad and encompasses a variety of careers. Therefore, the UT public health curriculum draws from a broad range of disciplines.

“Public health majors are required to take classes in such areas as epidemiology, biostatistics, social sciences, and communications,” Olsen said. “And, because successful public health efforts must be led by those who can mobilize, coordinate and direct collaborative actions within complex systems, the students will receive intense coursework in quality management and leadership.”

Steve Kucera, dean of the College of Natural and Health Sciences, said he is pleased to have someone of Dr. Olsen’s caliber leading this new program. He expects this program to generate a great deal of interest among University undergraduates who are thinking about a possible career path in this field.

Public health students will be encouraged to pursue interdisciplinary coursework at UT including courses in adolescent health, women’s health, gerontology, biology, environmental science, criminology, international and cultural studies, urban studies, Latin American studies, psychology, sociology, communication or research methods.

Upon completion of the program, students will be qualified for graduate studies and/or leadership roles in public and private organizations. These organizations may include hospitals, group practices, community health centers, and community-based nonprofit organizations, public and private corporations, foundations, workplaces, schools, colleges, and local, state and federal public health agencies.

Students who successfully complete the public health degree program are also eligible to take the national certification exam to become Certified Health Education Specialists.