Saturday, September 20, 2008

"For a Global Generation, Public Health Is a Hot Field"

This article by David Brown in the Washington Post (September 19, 2008) reports that enrollment in public health classes is increasing in schools that have long offered them, and
A recent survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that 137 of its 837 members, or 16 percent, now offer majors or minors in public health. (The number offering single courses is unknown.) Nearly two-thirds of the schools in that group require students majoring in the subject to undertake fieldwork or research.
I suggest that the increased emphasis on public health is not only a useful complement to medical and nursing schools that focus primarily on curative medicine, but a rebalancing of a system that has focused too much on cure and not enough on prevention. Moreover, as the article correctly states:
the benefits of studying public health go considerably beyond understanding infectious disease.

The concepts introduced in basic epidemiology courses include causation and correlation, absolute risk and relative risk, biological plausibility and statistical uncertainty. Nearly all health stories in the news -- from the possible hazards of bisphenol A in plastics and the theory that vaccines cause autism, to racial disparities in health care and missteps in the investigation of tainted peppers -- are better understood with grounding in that discipline.

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