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Drexel and the University of Pittsburgh Partner to Train Public Health Professionals

September 28, 2010

To ensure public health professionals are well-trained to meet Pennsylvania’s diverse health needs, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded $3.2 million to the Drexel University School of Public Health (DUSPH), University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) and University of Pittsburgh at Bradford to create the Pennsylvania Public Health Training Center (PAPHTC). The grant was awarded to the GSPH with Drexel collaborating as the training authority for Philadelphia and southeastern Pennsylvania.

The five-year grant funds a partnership among the three schools that will provide training to help counteract the impact of a shrinking public health workforce, which is anticipated to reach crisis proportions in the coming years. In Pennsylvania, only six counties and four cities have full-service public health departments. That represents less than half of the state’s population.

“We are thrilled with this investment in our public health system,” said Jennifer A. Kolker, M.P.H., PAPHTC co-principal investigator and assistant professor, DUSPH. “This award marks the first time that the Commonwealth is truly anchored by public health training centers at both ends of the state, providing us with the ability to invest in and strengthen our public health workforce. A strong public health infrastructure can translate to healthier communities across the Commonwealth.”

PAPHTC staff will develop partnerships with community-based organizations and health departments to provide training in management, health communications, program development and evaluation, and public health law and policy. PAPHTC also will provide organizational development services such as strategic planning and quality improvement.

“With diminishing resources, staff and state funding for public health, workers have been required to do much more with less,” said Maggie Potter, J.D., co-principal investigator of the grant and associate dean and director, Center for Public Health Practice, GSPH. “These increasing demands make training and support more important than ever by enabling public health workers to provide essential health services in the communities they serve. We are fortunate and grateful to have the support of the Health Resources and Services Administration to meet this demand.”

In the southeast region of the state, the public health workforce consists of local health departments in four of our five counties, as well as numerous non-profit organizations engaged in public health work.

The PAPHTC at DUSPH will work to build on the existing public health expertise in region and work with community partners to strengthen the public health workforce and build healthier communities. The PAPHTC fits squarely with the DUSPH’s commitment to public health practice – working collaboratively with health departments, community groups, and populations to directly impact real-world public health problems.

Deputy Mayor and Health Commissioner Donald Schwarz noted that “the Philadelphia Department of Public Health enjoys a strong relationship with the Drexel University School of Public Health and we are excited with this great opportunity to continue to build on this relationship. The PAPHTC grant will enable Drexel to help keep our workforce up to date in both content knowledge, and the practice skills necessary to serve a large, urban population with significant public health needs."

The Drexel PAPHTC site will be housed within the School of Public Health’s Center for Public Health Practice and builds upon its existing relationships with local public health departments and organizations throughout the region. The primary goal for Drexel in this grant will be the focused coordination and enhancement of existing public health training, providing training in public health knowledge and content as well as skills necessary for public health practice, targeting activities based on public health need. Major activities include assessment of need for public health workforce training, increased capacity and technology for distance learning.

“At a time of ever-increasing health care cost, prevalence of chronic and life-style modifiable diseases, emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention through a trained public health work force is a step in the right direction to improve health outcomes in our state and country,” said Youmasu J. Siewe, Ph.D., M.P.H., PAPHTC project manager and director, Center for Rural Health Practice, University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.

The PAPHTC center is one of 27 accredited Public Health Training Centers being funded by HHS over the next five years.

About the Drexel University School of Public Health: The Drexel University School of Public Health is the only fully accredited school of public health in Philadelphia and a full member of the Association of Schools of Public Health. Located in the heart of Philadelphia, one of the most vibrant, diverse and elite health science centers in the country, the School trains new leaders to tackle today’s major health challenges. Its renowned, community-collaborative approach offers students hands-on experience coupled with rigorous academic programs. The School’s cutting edge research addresses critical public health challenges.

About the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health: Faculty at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH), founded in 1948 and now one of the top-ranked schools of public health in the United States, conduct research on public health and medical care that improves the lives of millions of people around the world. GSPH is a leader in devising new methods to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases, HIV/AIDS, cancer and other important public health problems. For more information about GSPH, visit the school’s Web site at http://www.publichealth.pitt.edu.

About University of Pittsburgh at Bradford: The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford is a four-year college offering 41 baccalaureate degrees in a variety of traditional arts and science majors as well as emerging fields of study. Located on 317 acres in Bradford, Pa., it is one four regional campuses of the University of Pittsburgh and has been ranked by U.S.News & World Report as one of the best regional colleges in the north.

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News media contact: Niki Gianakaris, director, Drexel News Bureau 215-895-6741, 215-778-7752 (cell), ngianakaris@drexel.edu

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