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KU to create School of Public Health

The Kansas Board of Regents has endorsed KU’s plan to develop a School of Public Health.

The university submitted its plan to the regents in September, seeking to reorganize four existing departments at the KU Medical Center to form a School of Public Health.

“There is a growing demand among Kansas’ college graduates for training in public health disciplines. We are ready to meet that demand,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “Individuals trained in our School of Public Health will be leaders in the design and implementation of innovative programs to promote health, prevent disease, manage chronic illness and control health care costs.”

The proposal was driven by a number of crucial needs in Kansas:

• An aging population and rising demand for disease prevention and improved treatments require more public health and health care workers;

• Rising health care costs linked to chronic disease can be reduced by encouraging healthy behaviors

• Disparities in health based on ethnicity, race, income, education and other factors continue to afflict communities across Kansas

• Emerging diseases such as H1N1 influenza, environmental hazards and bioterrorism threats add to the need for quickly diagnosing, investigating and managing disease outbreaks and controlling risk factors

“Private-sector companies ranging from hospitals to health information technology to pharmaceutical companies are all desperately seeking individuals with skills in the public health and population health sciences,” said KU Medical Center Executive Vice Chancellor Barbara Atkinson. “But local communities, employers and state government need graduates with these skills as well. Our School of Public Health’s mission will be to help train these desperately needed public health care professionals and improve health outcomes across the state and region.”

Besides allowing KU to better meet those workforce needs, Atkinson said, having an accredited School of Public Health will allow KU to compete for federal grant funding to support health care and public health education, service and research programs.

“In 2009, Kansas ranked 40th in overall state funding for public health, 47th in Health Services and Resources Administration funding and 37th in Centers for Disease Control prevention funding,” Atkinson said. “Having a School of Public Health in Kansas will allow the state to improve those rankings.”

The school would also support KU’s goal of obtaining National Cancer Institute designation, thanks to the medical center’s strong Cancer Control and Population health program, which has more than $12.4 million in NCI-funded grants.

"The Board of Regents is pleased to support this monumental step forward," said Gary Sherrer, chair of the Kansas Board of Regents. "KU's proposal couldn't come at a more critical time for our state. These efforts to promote public health will save lives and money. By creating a School of Public Health, expanding its School of Medicine programs in Wichita and Salina, and aspiring to earn National Cancer Institute designation, the Medical Center is accomplishing something colossal in a very short period of time."

Four departments will be reorganized into the School of Public Health: Preventive Medicine and Public Health in Kansas City; Preventive Medicine and Public Health in Wichita; Biostatistics in Kansas City and Health Policy and Management in Kansas City. Other departments from the Lawrence campus may also be integrated. The four departments include nearly 150 students, house more than 45 faculty actively engaged in public health education, service and research and hold more than $40.6 million in grant support. KU has an accredited masters of public health program with students on both the Kansas City and Wichita campuses.

With the announcement of the Board of Regents’ support for the development of the School of Public Health, the medical center will begin with a private fundraising goal of $2.5 million to recruit a new dean and $2 million for an endowed chair position.

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Carey Novak, director of business relations and development, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies
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