Headline: At the forefront

The University of Texas at Arlington’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation recently created a Master of Public Health degree with an urban health focus, making UTA the only university in Texas and one of a few in the United States to offer this concentration.

The MPH concentration in urban health prepares students to address the complex public health issues facing urban communities and the health inequities among various racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, according to Erin Carlson, associate professor of public health and director of the college’s graduate public health programs.

Public health, a broad field that includes health management and policy, epidemiology, community health and environmental health, is one of the nation’s fastest-growing professions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects there will be 250,000 openings for public health professionals by next year.

“Graduates will be equipped to advocate for policies to address health needs in urban communities, as well as apply skills to conduct health needs assessments, program implementation and program evaluation,” Carlson says.

The coursework covers a variety of topics and skills critical to the promotion of health in urban areas, including community health assessment, program evaluation and social justice. The student-centered, practice-focused program is designed to offer flexibility to working students. Courses within the urban health concentration are held both online and in the classroom. A cohort of 10 part- and full-time students make up the inaugural class this fall.

“We anticipate considerable growth in the future but at a rate that does not compromise the quality of education we provide,” Carlson says. “We have degree plans for those who want to graduate in two, three or four years. We are currently the only program in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex that allows students the opportunity to work full-time during the day and complete their MPH degree taking on-campus or hybrid classes at night.”

The college hopes to attract three kinds of students:

  • Students with bachelor’s degrees who are interested in advancing their careers in the area of public health
  • Working professionals in the DFW area who would like to further their career opportunities by obtaining graduate degrees in public health
  • Current UTA graduate students who may be interested in adding a public health perspective to their education

In developing the MPH program, UTA officials talked extensively to local public health leaders about the kinds of skills they seek in their employees.

“We reviewed state and national data from public health employers,” says David Keller, associate dean of the college and chair of the Department of Kinesiology, which includes public health. “From that information, we created a program that provides students practice-based skill sets that will apply directly to careers in the public health setting. We want DFW public health employers to be as impressed with what our graduates can do as they are with what they know.”

This rising need for public health workers spurred UTA to launch an undergraduate public health degree and a postgraduate certificate in fall 2017. Both the bachelor’s degree and postgraduate certificate programs have attracted hundreds of students.

“Having a graduate public health program further bolsters one of the University’s strategic plan pillars of advancing health and the human condition,” says Elizabeth Merwin, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

Students interested in learning more about the program can visit uta.edu/php-lib/machform/view.php?id=5496.