Published March 24, 2021
The Department of Community Health and Health Behavior (CHHB) in the School of Public Health and Health Professions has introduced two focus areas to its individualized and online individualized Master of Public Health degree programs.
In addition to the individualized curricula that has traditionally been offered, students can now specialize in the focus areas of health equity or addictions. The focus areas allow students to dive deeper and specialize in a more precise area of public health.
“The health equity focus area in particular meets an urgent need to make quality health care available regardless of income or ethnicity, while also better understanding the social determinants of health that drive so many health outcomes,” says Gregory G. Homish, professor and chair of the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior.
Sarah Cercone Heavey, clinical assistant professor and director of MPH programs in the department, calls health equity “one of the defining issues of our time.”
“We see enormous differences in the health and well-being of communities, based largely on differences in race/ethnicity and income,” Heavey says. “It’s time to address these disparities — for more equity and better health for all.”
The focus areas allow students to designate a path when they begin the MPH program, building both content expertise and developing practical skills through carefully selected coursework.
CHHB students are already well-equipped to obtain jobs in the public health arena — School of Public Health and Health Professions’ job placement for MPH graduates has been 100% since 2016.
But selecting a focus area and targeting their education and skills to a specific topic within public health will give graduates a leg up on a career path more closely related to the focus area they studied during their time at UB.
Graduates trained to address health equity in the community are crucial for modern public health, according to school officials, who say they are seeing health disparities throughout the country’s health system. These include affordable health care options for differing income levels, urban versus rural accessibility, and for Black and Indigenous people, and people of color, as well as low-income populations with greater rates of both morbidity and mortality from COVID-19.
The school’s new focus area in health equity will help prepare students to tackle these public health-oriented problems and develop real-world solutions, leveraging their degree to create change in their communities.