12:00 AM

OSU trustees establish College of Public Health

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Ohio State University Board of Trustees voted today to establish the College of Public Health, the first new college at Ohio State in 23 years. The decision by the trustees reflects a national trend recognizing public health as a high-impact field. At the same time, public health is facing a labor shortage in the U.S. as professionals retire.

"As Ohio's only land grant institution, The Ohio State University is committed to research, teaching, and public service, all of which are embodied by public health. Public health research and scholarship are directly linked to community wellness, health policy and quality of life for our citizens," President Karen A. Holbrook said. "Ohio State is uniquely positioned to develop a separate College of Public Health and has the strength and capacity to develop as a first-rate program. It brings significant value and added strength to Ohio State health sciences."

The School of Public Health was established in 1995 and is fully accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health. Until 2003, it was housed in the College of Medicine. That year the school's first permanent dean, Stanley A. Lemeshow, was appointed, and the school separated from the College of Medicine at that time.

Over the last three years, the School of Public Health has significantly increased the size of its faculty and tripled its research funding. College of Public Health faculty have expertise in cancer control and prevention, tobacco cessation, health services research and public health preparedness, said Lemeshow.

"The quality and caliber of the faculty at the College of Public Health broadens the depth of academic offerings and research at Ohio State," Provost Barbara R. Snyder said. "The college's faculty, students and staff demonstrate a commitment to excellence in a field that has immediate, real-world impact."

Last summer, the university selected public health preparedness as one of its targeted areas of investment. The preparedness initiative, which includes the College of Public Health and five other colleges at Ohio State, will initiate new preparedness research, including improved detection and monitoring mechanisms, new diagnostic tools, therapies and vaccines for infectious diseases, including those resulting from bioterrorism.

"We have come to a point in our society when anthrax, avian flu and other public health threats are part of everyday vernacular, and yet we are seeing dramatic decreases in the public health workforce due to retirement and attrition," Lemeshow said. "Public health is a priority for every American, and we are pleased that the Board of Trustees has positioned us to pursue our goal of becoming one of the top public health colleges in the nation."

The American Public Health Association (APHA) predicts a critical shortage in public health workers. Officials at APHA say that the United States has lost 28 percent of its public health workers (based on population increases) between 1980 and 2000. This shortage will be further exacerbated in the near future by retirement, losses to the private sector and other career changes. Because of terrorism, catastrophic weather in recent years and the threat of disease pandemics, this shortage may have a major impact on the health of Americans, said Lemeshow.

Ohio State's College of Public Health has been the first and only school of public health in the state of Ohio. It currently offers master's degrees in professional practice as well as research and doctoral degrees. The specializations within the college include biostatistics, epidemiology, health behavior and health promotion, environmental health sciences, health services management and policy, veterinary public health and an emerging emphasis on clinical investigations. The college also offers an undergraduate minor and is developing an undergraduate major.