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Changes to the Master of Public Health program reflect the needs of working public health professionals

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The Master of Public Health (MPH) program at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine will have a new concentration called Community Health Promotion and Equity (CHPE). The new concentration is a revision of the former Public Health Education concentration, with the inaugural class entering in Fall 2022. The former concentration was created over 10 years ago. Since then, the program has grown, course requirements have changed, and the public health program has gained faculty with new expertise.

A degree in public health prepares graduates to practice public health in local, state, regional, national and global settings. Program-specific concentrations help students narrow their focus and develop targeted skills. In addition to CHPE, students can also pursue a concentration in Infectious Disease. Students pursue one concentration or choose to pursue both, which allows them to draw from both concentrations in completing their degree.

This unique new concentration reflects the MPH program’s emphasis on community engagement and health equity-based practices. Sophie Wenzel, assistant professor of practice & associate director, Center for Public Health Practice and Research, the new concentration’s coordinator, said, “We have three required courses in the new concentration that reflect our commitment to community health and equity: Principles of Community Health Education, Social Epidemiology and Health Inequality, and Methods in Community Health Engagement. The new name, Community Health Promotion and Equity, better aligns with this concentration’s trajectory.” 

The new concentration aligns with the 10 Essential Public Health Services (EPHS), a framework that describes the public health activities that all communities should undertake. The initial framework was released in 1994 but most recently updated in 2020 as a result of a collaborative effort by the Public Health National Center for Innovations (PHNCI) and the de Beaumont Foundation , who convened a task force of public health experts, leaders, and practitioners and engaged the public health community in activities to inform the changes. The task force also included experts from federal agencies, including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which were instrumental in establishing and supporting the original EPHS framework. In the revised EPHS, healthy equity was added and placed at the center of public health practice. Placing equity at the core of public health practice means that all public health services must aim to improve overall health while advancing equity.

The new CHPE concentration reflects these national trends in public health. “Something essential to us was that our concentration and competencies were aligned with what was needed for public health professionals practicing out in the real world. Our students are trained to engage community partners to work with them to address unique public health challenges with an equity lens,” said Wenzel.

Hannah Menefee, public health program coordinator in the Department of Population Health Sciences at the veterinary college, added, “By completing the CHPE concentration, students will still learn the essential skills needed to be health educators and will still be able to sit for the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) exam. However, with the revision, the concentration now emphasizes that public health educators must focus equity at the center of all work that takes place in the communities they serve.”

More information on the concentration, including competencies and courses, can be found on our program website here.