Exercise and Health

UWF to offer fully online bachelor’s in public health in Fall 2021

Starting in Fall 2021, the University of West Florida will offer a new fully online Bachelor of Science in Public Health degree, pending approval from the Florida Board of Governors. The UWF Board of Trustees approved the new degree program during its quarterly meeting held on March 18, 2021. The interdisciplinary program will be housed in the Department of Public Health in the Usha Kundu, MD College of Health.

Public health promotes health and well-being of populations and communities through disease and injury prevention, wellness education through public health policy development and research to address current and emerging public health problems. The new undergraduate program will provide graduates with a degree in fast-growing, highly relevant health care fields, including careers as health educators, health care consultants, infection control officers, nutritionists and public health administrators.

“The demand for employment within the public health field is steadily increasing and this program will infuse highly-qualified graduates into the state workforce,” said Dr. George Ellenberg, provost and senior vice president. “This is another example of the University’s thoughtful approach to expand academic disciplines.”

The spotlight on public health has shone brightly since the onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Public health experts at the local, state and national departments have collaborated to mitigate the spread of the virus and treat infected patients. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. exceeds 29 million and the number of deaths attributed to the virus tops 530,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“With the demand for public health professionals, there is no better time to introduce this degree than now,” said Dr. Daniel Drost, assistant dean for the Usha Kundu, MD College of Health. “People took public health for granted, but now because of a global pandemic, everyone is connected to it.”

The current public health workforce in the United States is an older demographic and the Council on Education for Public Health predicts half of the current workforce will retire or resign in the next five years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 32% growth for medical and health service managers through 2029. The BLS reports the current annual median salary is $100,980. Additionally, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Data Center estimates 16% growth for medical and health service managers over that same span.

Additional public health workforce challenges include a gap between workforce skills and capacity caused by changes in public health practices and limited training among current workers.

This new program addresses these challenges by offering an industry-vetted, competency-based curriculum that focuses on 21st century public health problems, as outlined by the Council on Education in Public Health for Bachelor of Public Health. Areas of focus include the basic processes, approaches and interventions that identify and address the major health-related needs and concerns of populations.

“The Northwest Florida region will benefit considerably from this new degree program,” said Dr. Steven Brown, interim dean of the Usha Kundu, MD College of Health. “It will contribute to critical workforce needs in our region by strengthening and enhancing existing partnerships and research collaborations within the public health, health care and military communities.”

Since 2006, UWF has offered an online Master of Public Health program, which consistently ranks among the top 10 most affordable online programs by MPH ranking services. The competency-based, military-friendly curriculum offers three areas of concentration—generalist MPH, global health and health, promotion and behavior. The curriculum caters to students from diverse backgrounds and career goals in population health.

To learn more about the UWF’s Department of Public Health, visit uwf.edu/publichealth.