Leaders of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa have announced plans to create a School of Global and Community Health to build on and expand the work of the former School of Public Health, which was closed in 1999 for fiscal reasons.
In a joint statement, Mānoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw, Dean of the John A. Burns School of Medicine Jerris Hedges, and Jay Maddock, director of the current Office of Public Health Studies, said the new School is needed to develop programs to address urgent health problems and issues, including poor nutrition and obesity, prevention of chronic and infectious disease, and improving epidemiology and international health.
The former UH Mānoa School of Public Health lost its accreditation in 1999 and was closed as a school. The Master of Public Health program was retained and merged into the John A. Burns School of Medicine. At the time of the School’s closing, University officials expressed the intention to explore reestablishment of a public health school at an appropriate time in the future.
The educational programs overseen by the Office of Public Health Studies in the John A. Burns School of Medicine received a full, seven-year national accreditation in 2007, and the Office and its associated programs have grown rapidly.
“The John A. Burns School of Medicine has been a great incubator in growing our Office of Public Health Studies in the last decade,” said Director Maddock. “In 2000, the public health graduate program at Mānoa had seven students. In 2012, the program now has over 100 students.”
Added Chancellor Hinshaw, “We recognize a need to increase health sciences education leading to careers in fields such as medicine, nursing, public health, social work and cancer research. At the same time, we must also be economically prudent, so we are committed to maximum cooperation among UH Mānoa health-related programs and partnerships with other government and community entities.”
Said Dean Hedges, “The medical school understands that the promotion of health is best achieved in an inter-disciplinary fashion. The roles of physician and public health officer complement one another, yet are quite different. Both fields are currently challenged by an aging workforce, which is aggravating shortages among service providers. These combined shortages will compromise the overall health of the public.”
Director Maddock said that, unlike some of the other health professionals, public health officers do not typically treat patients or see them in a clinical setting. “Public health’s focus is on populations, not individuals,” he said. “We train people in health care administration and develop solutions to health problems at the community and international level.
“Many of the more than 3,500 graduates of the former UH Mānoa School of Public Health work in the Hawai‘i State Department of Health and in community health centers throughout Hawai‘i, the Pacific and Asia,” Director Maddock continued. “A large portion of those workers are nearing retirement age.”
Said Chancellor Hinshaw, “We are committed to a transparent, open process, which is why we are making this joint announcement. There is much we need to discuss with potential partners within the University system, with faculty, staff and students, and with government and community leaders.”
Director Maddock also believes there is an opportunity to explore a variety of strategies. “We plan to maximize existing resources, share administrative resources with the medical school, minimize new costs, and attract funding, which Hawai‘i will only be eligible to receive if it develops a school of public health.”