Ohio Universities Use Health of the Public Funding to Develop Curriculum on Population-Based Medicine, Start MPH Program

Health of the Public: An Academic Challenge

From 1993 to 1998, the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine (NEOUCOM) introduced curriculum changes involving behavioral sciences and population-based medicine, established an Academic Health Department to integrate community health workers into the academic environment, and initiated creation of a Masters of Public Health program.

NEOUCOM is a consortium of three universities: The University of Akron, Kent State University, and Youngstown State University. More than 80 percent of its students enter combined BS/MD programs at the three universities.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health of the Public: An Academic Challenge national program.

Key Results:

  • NEOUCOM introduced a variety of curriculum changes, including a humanities-oriented behavioral sciences curriculum and a comprehensive curriculum in population-based medicine:
    • Students receive course work in population-based medicine in their first three years, rather than only in their third year.
    • Fourth year students are now required to complete a four-week community medicine clerkship.
    • During the clerkship, students work under faculty from the College of Medicine and community-based professionals, and tackle a health problem identified by the community. Projects have addressed the following problems:
      • Increasing access to care by the indigent.
      • Reducing the incidence of low-birth weight babies.
      • Improving the health status of the homeless.
      • Reducing the incidence of spousal abuse.

      A few projects were adopted by the community:
      • The Akron Fire Department implemented student recommendations for a community education program to reduce residential fire deaths.
      • One of the two major health systems in Summit County improved its immunization efforts in response to student research into the reasons for the low response of seniors to Medicare-funded immunizations.
  • Throughout the northeast Ohio region, faculty and students pursued research projects that the community had identified and prioritized, including an investigation of the causes of high rates of congenital anomalies and a study seeking reasons for specialist physicians' apparent unwillingness to treat Medicaid patients.
  • Faculty of the Division of Community Health Sciences initiated a process to design and implement a Masters of Public Health degree program, in order to improve the academic base for public health practice in northeastern Ohio beyond the training of physicians. A set of committees began the process of preparing a Preliminary Degree Proposal for approval by the Ohio Board of Regents.
  • To integrate community health workers into the academic environment, NEOUCOM established an academic health department, including an Office of Public Health Practice. Faculty includes some NEOUCOM-based methodologists (biostatisticians and epidemiologists), but is made up primarily of professionals who did not have a previous academic appointment. Faculty was recruited from the region's public health departments as well as other community-based organizations.

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