FORT SMITH – Officials at the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education believe their new graduate program will improve both education and community health.
The school announced Jan. 18 of the Higher Learning Commission, an accredited institution in the region, gave the opportunity to start a master’s degree in public health with the beginning planned for the fall of 2024. Students in the program will be able to focus on any nutrition or rural and regional health.
The new program is designed to complement the school’s other graduate programs and provide opportunities for health professionals to expand their knowledge, according to the news release. The institution already has doctoral programs in osteopathic medicine, physical therapy and exercise therapy, as well as a master of science program in biomedicine.
The program will also support community health and nutrition programs conducted by the colleges Research Institute Health and Wellness Center.
“We are excited to add this degree to our programs because it aligns so closely with ACHE’s mission to address the health and well-being of our community,” said Kyle Parker, president and chief executive officer.
Benny Gooden, executive assistant to the provost, said Monday that many health programs “similarly” to other degree programs offer to help people better understand the environment in which they can work.
Elizabeth McClain, the school’s director of public health and director of the new master’s program, said the colleges see what they can do to improve the health of Arkansas by developing the program.
The United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings platform ranked Arkansas the 48th healthiest state in its 2022 report, ahead of only Mississippi and Louisiana. The rankings were based on measures of five health categories. These included:
• Social and economic factors: social and family security, wealth, education and social support and action.
• Habitat: Quality of air and water as well as housing and transport.
• Medical care: Access to care, preventive health care and quality of care.
• Behaviors: Healthy diet and exercise, good sexual health, good sleep, smoking and smoking.
• Health Outcomes: Quality of life, mortality and health.
High rates of premature death, homelessness and smoking are among the health problems facing Arkansas, according to the report.
McClain said one of the main goals of the public health technology program is to teach students how health factors — how people are born, grow, work, live and age — affect health and determine how to deal with it. “Opportunities” lead to individual, group and societal outcomes. Graduates can find employment in health departments, health agencies and health law.
The emphasis on rural and community health in the school’s new degree program will help graduates understand how to help change public and health policy to advance the needs of society, according to McClain. He said the rural culture is “very different” from the urban culture in terms of how and where people live and how they deal with health and illness, including when they go to hospitals for preventive check-ups.
“If they’re in the fields, they can’t rest,” McClain said. “We have a 9-5 job and we think that’s the way it works. If something is going on, people can’t take the time to drive three hours to get to the hospital to check for prevention. We have to look at it, change the policy and have the opportunity that it works well with what they need in their environment.”
McClain said improving health skills, or a person’s ability to understand and act on assigned medical conditions, is also important.
Blake Metcalf, the school’s director of health and community services who will oversee the health nutrition program, said the program will help educate people in a number of fields, including doctors, nutritionists and registered nurses.
Food sustainability will include a teaching kitchen where people can learn from the establishment how to prepare and obtain food.
“It’s a very unique experience, and we can take it to the diverse group that I just described earlier and we hope to create this new group of people who are self-controlled, food lovers who want to change a little bit. the way of medicine and health care as a whole,” said Metcalf.
However, although the intimate seminars of the program will be from the Research Institute Health and Wellness Center of the school, most of the courses will be offered online, which provides flexibility for working health professionals, according to the article.
“We will always have access to the Internet, except for things that have happened, such as the teaching kitchen, and we can have seminars that we want to engage our students in other things that you can’t do the same. know if you are online,” said McClain.
McClain said students can also participate in the program part-time or full-time. A full-time student will be able to complete the program in two years; part-time students will have five years to complete.
The course, which has yet to be confirmed, will include 45 semester courses, according to McClain. This will include 24 hours of core instruction that everyone in the program will take and 15 hours of electives. Students will also have three hours each assigned to work on projects aimed at helping the community.
Susan Devero, the college’s dean of business, community relations, said the public health degree program will have about 50 students. She estimated tuition for the entire program at about $20,000.